Capitol Alert

Multicultural California leads nation in linguistic complexity

Breanna Sanchez, 9, performs with Folklorico Calli at an event in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month on Oct. 14, 2012 in Sacramento.
Breanna Sanchez, 9, performs with Folklorico Calli at an event in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month on Oct. 14, 2012 in Sacramento. rbyer@sacbee.com

California’s cultural complexity, unmatched by any other state, is on graphic display in a new Census Bureau report.

Just 56 percent of the 35 million Californians over the age of 4 speak only English at home, the Census Bureau study found, proportionately far fewer than residents of any other state.

Not surprisingly, of the 44 percent who speak some language other than English at home, two-thirds speak Spanish, the study, covering the years 2009-2013, determined. Latinos are now California’s largest ethnic group.

Accordingly, the study also found that among largest metropolitan areas, the Los Angeles region featured the nation’s second highest number of languages spoken, 185, with 54 percent of its residents over 4 years old speaking some language other than English at home.

The New York area had largest number of languages spoken, 192, but its percentage of non-English users, 38 percent, was far smaller than those in the Los Angeles region.

Among other culturally complex states, Texas was second to California’s 44 percent in the proportion of residents speaking something other than English at home, 35 percent, followed by New York at 30 percent and Florida at 28 percent.

Overall, the study found at least 350 languages being spoken in the nation, including 150 Native American languages.

While Spanish is by far the most common non-English language spoken by Californians at home (10.1 million residents), Chinese is second at 1 million, followed by Tagalog (Philippines) at 764,743, Vietnamese at 521,534 and Korean at 372,742.

The least-spoken are mostly dozens of Native American languages, with Navajo, at 1,401, the most used of those.

  Comments