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August 27, 2013

Land Of A Thousand Tongues

North and South America are brimming with immigrants from every country on the planet. The assumption is that immigrants will, at least in a generation or two, leave behind their native tongues (and most of their native traditions) and...

...take on the language and ways of their new home.

Perhaps that was true a century ago. But even then it was probably more of a hope or belief than a reality.

The United States and Canada both have large areas where people (at home, and sometimes in public arenas) speak a language other than English.

The USA Census has just released its statistics on language use (you can see it here http://theweek.com/article/index/248560/14-fascinating-language-facts-from-the-us-census-bureau?goback=.gde_2347482_member_268399859).

Here are a few excerpts from the website to whet your interest;
Over 300 languages are spoken in the U.S. For purposes of analysis they are categorized into 39 groups (e.g., Slavic languages besides Russian, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian are under "Other Slavic Languages." Indian languages besides Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu are under "Other Indic Languages.")

Of the population 5 years and older, 21 percent speak another language at home. Of those, 62 percent speak Spanish. Of those Spanish speakers, 56 percent speak English "very well."

And, to highlight the sheer spread and odd coagulation of language speakers, the website notes that there are over 1,000 speakers of the Pacific island language Samoan in Alaska.

English is certainly the dominant language in the USA and Canada, but many cultures maintain their identity by keeping their languages alive.

It is possible to work and live in the larger culture while keeping one's culture.


Posted by mmorf at August 27, 2013 11:47 PM


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