Languages of the United States

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English is the de facto national language of the United States, with 82% of the population claiming it as a mother tongue, and some 96% claiming to speak it "well" or "very well".[3] However, no official language exists at the Federal level. There have been several proposals to make English the national language in amendments to immigration reform bills,[4][5] but none of these bills has become law with the amendment intact. The situation is quite varied at the State and Territorial levels, with some states mirroring the Federal policy of adopting no official language in a de jure capacity, others adopting English alone, others officially adopting English as well as local languages, and still others adopting a policy of de facto bilingualism.

The variety of English spoken in the United States is known as American English; together with Canadian English it makes up the group of dialects known as North American English.

Spanish is the second most common language in the country, and is spoken by over 12% of the population.[6] The United States holds the world's fifth largest Spanish-speaking population, outnumbered only by Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Colombia. Throughout the Southwestern United States, long-established Spanish-speaking communities coexist with large numbers of more recent Hispanophone immigrants. Although many new Latin American immigrants are less than fluent in English, nearly all second-generation Hispanic Americans speak English fluently, while only about half still speak Spanish.[7]

According to the 2000 US census, people of German ancestry make up the largest single ethnic group in the United States, and the German language ranks fifth.[8][9] Italian, Polish, and Greek are still widely spoken among populations descending from immigrants from those countries in the early 20th century, but the use of these languages is dwindling as older generations pass away. Russian is also spoken by immigrant populations.

Tagalog and Vietnamese have over one million speakers in the United States, almost entirely within recent immigrant populations. Both languages, along with the varieties of the Chinese language, Japanese, and Korean, are now used in elections in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington.[10]

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