The most commonly used language in the United States is American English

The most commonly used language in the United States is English (specifically, American English), which is the de facto national language. Nonetheless, many other languages are also spoken, or historically have been spoken, in the United States. These include indigenous languages, languages brought to the country by colonists, enslaved people and immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia. There are also several languages, including creoles and sign languages, that developed in the United States. Approximately 430 languages are spoken or signed by the population, of which 176 are indigenous to the area. Fifty-two languages formerly spoken in the country’s territory are now extinct.

Based on annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS), the U.S. Census Bureau regularly publishes information on the most common languages spoken at home. It also reports the English speaking ability of people who speak a language other than English at home. In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau published information on the number of speakers of over 350 languages as surveyed by the ACS from 2009 to 2013, but it does not regularly tabulate and report data for that many languages.

According to the ACS in 2017, the most common languages spoken at home by people aged five years of age or older are as follows (the most recent data can be found via the U.S. Census Bureau’s ACS chart at ):

  1. English only – 239 million
  2. Spanish – 41 million
  3. Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese) – 3.5 million
  4. Tagalog (including Filipino) – 1.7 million
  5. Vietnamese – 1.5 million
  6. Arabic – 1.2 million
  7. French – 1.2 million
  8. Korean – 1.1 million
  9. Russian – 0.94 million
  10. German – 0.92 million
  11. Haitian Creole – 0.87 million
  12. Hindi – 0.86 million
  13. Portuguese – 0.79 million
  14. Italian – 0.58 million
  15. Polish – 0.52 million
  16. Urdu – 0.51 million
  17. Yiddish – 0.51 million
  18. Japanese – 0.46 million
  19. Persian (including Farsi, Dari and Tajik) – 0.42 million
  20. Gujarati – 0.41 million
  21. Telugu – 0.37 million
  22. Bengali – 0.32 million
  23. Tai–Kadai (including Thai and Lao) – 0.31 million
  24. Urdu – 0.3 million
  25. Greek – 0.27 million
  26. Punjabi – 0.29 million
  27. Tamil – 0.27 million
  28. Armenian – 0.24 million
  29. Serbo-Croatian (including Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian) – 0.24 million
  30. Hebrew – 0.23 million
  31. Hmong – 0.22 million
  32. Bantu languages (including Swahili) – 0.22 million
  33. Khmer – 0.20 million
  34. Navajo – 0.16 million

The ACS is not a full census but an annual sample-based survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The language statistics are based on responses to a three-part question asked about all members of a target U.S. household who are at least five years old. The first part asks if they “speak a language other than English at home.” If so, the head of the household or main respondent is asked to report which language each member speaks in the home, and how well each individual speaks English. It does not ask how well individuals speak any other language of the household. Thus, some respondents might have only a limited speaking ability of that language. In addition, it is difficult to make historical comparisons of the numbers of speakers because language questions used by the U.S. Census changed numerous times before 1980.

The ACS does not tabulate the number of people who report the use of American Sign Language at home, so such data must come from other sources. While modern estimates indicate that American Sign Language was signed by as many as 500,000 Americans in 1972 (the last official survey of sign language), estimates as recently as 2011 were closer to 100,000. Various cultural factors, such as the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have resulted in far greater educational opportunities for hearing-impaired children, which could double or triple the number of current users of American Sign Language.

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