A few days ago, we launched a feature sharing the top ten foreign languages in the United States, the regions and cities in which they are most prominent, and the industries in which those language skills may serve you professionally.
Today, it’s time to reveal the top three, each of which has over one-and-a-half million American speakers.
Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, is spoken by over 1,600,000 people in the United States. The majority of Filipino-Americans are found in the American west: Tagalog is the most spoken language after English in Hawaii and the third most spoken language (behind English and Spanish) in California and Nevada. The garment and footwear, natural resources, electronics, and pharmaceutical industries are among the most vital to the Filipino economy.
With nearly three million American speakers, Chinese is the second most common foreign language in the country. Recent census statistics indicates that almost 40 percent of the Chinese speakers in the U.S. live in California, and Chinese is the third most spoken language (behind English and Spanish) in New York. China is the largest supplier of U.S. imports and total trade between the two nations exceeded $592 billion in 2014 — one of the many reasons that knowledge of Chinese is so coveted in financial markets, investing, and international trade organizations. China is a world leader in industrial output, and its key industries include metallurgy (mining and processing of iron, steel, and aluminum), consumer products, garments, automobiles, and telecommunications equipment.
It should come as no surprise that Spanish is the most spoken foreign language in the United States. The number of Spanish speakers in the country is poised to exceed 40 million in the next decade — in fact, the U.S. has a larger number of Spanish speakers than Spain! Spanish is the most widely taught foreign language in U.S. secondary schools and universities, and ranks second to English in all but seven states. The language is especially prevalent in the southwest; over half of all the Hispanic population in the U.S. resides in California, Texas, and Florida, and those three states plus New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey and Colorado all have Hispanic populations of over one million. Some other fun facts? The president’s annual State of the Union address is translated into Spanish, a precedent started in the Clinton administration; there are over 500 Spanish-language magazines published in the U.S.; and Hispanic advertising dollars exceeded $5 billion in 2014 and are rising steady each year.
Check out our piece on the 100 words you need to learn to master a foreign language to kickstart your learning journey with Spanish or any of the top ten foreign languages on this list!