Language Learning America

What Languages do Americans learn? Spanish and French!

Language Learning America

What languages do Americans learn? That is a question that even made it into Hollywood blockbusters like Inglorious Basterds. Pimsleur published an interesting interactive infographic about the languages Americans (U.S. citizens to be more precise) are actually interested in learning. The infographic shows the top two languages for every single state.

Of course Pimsleur, as provider of one of the most famous language learning courses, has got first hand data on what languages are popular amongst its customers.

Not surprisingly, Spanish is on the number one spot in every single state. The interest level ranges from 63.7% in Texas to 37% in Maine. Actually, you can see a decrease in interest the further away the state is from the Mexican border.

The states on the East Coast show a stronger preference for French and Italian. For states like Michigan, New York, New Hampshire and Maine this might be due to the border with the French speaking part of Canada though it is interesting and noteworthy that in Vermont and Pennsylvania Italian is on the second spot with 19.4% and 15.6%. Italian also comes in second place in Massachusetts, Connecticut and (no surprise) New Jersey.

In one of our last posts we wrote about reasons to learn German and though there is a very large group of people in the U.S. with German roots only in a couple of states German comes in second place. These states are North Dakota with 13%, Wisconsin with 11% and Wyoming with 7%. The pattern still matches with regions famous for German settlers.

One obvious takeaway is that Spanish speaking people are currently the fastest growing group if immigrants to the U.S. and hence it probably makes sense for people to learn the language of their new neighbors and compatriots. Otherwise, the interest in learning a language seems to be affected by former communities of immigrants like Italians or Germans or, going back even further in history, by the influence of France on the North American continent.

All in all, a pretty interesting infographic by Pimsleur.

  • Hmmmmm I wonder if Greek and to a lesser degree Hebrew is not registering in the stats. Most of the evangelical community of Christians dabble in these languages. I think many more would pursue these languages if the presenters (non language teachers) would acquire modern teaching methods and tools.

    • You can switch to another view in the infographic that will show you the placement of all the language in the different states, not only the top two spots.

  • I can understand that when you think of the spanish language you think of the spanish country/flag almost automatically but, for me at least, the spanish language in latinamerica is much more than that.
    Although “we” can understand each other, there are lots of differences between Mexico or Chile or Argentina to name a few. These happen to be completely different countries. Now please think how different the spanish in Spain can be. I guess the feeling can be like using the austrian flag (as it happens in Vienna) to say “we speak Deutsch here” 😀
    Sidenote: es ist leider zu wissen, that the spanish language in the U.S. gives you little (if any) prestige. In some states it’s known as the “domestic service” language. As I was in L.A., CA, I was surprised to see that lots of people, specially those with clearly mexican roots (not all the people of course), refused to talk in spanish.

    • That is a very good point you make there, Fernando. The “flag” system used on the Internet to show different languages is really not precise. But what would be the alternative?

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