Languages of The United States - Main Languages

Main Languages

Some of the first European languages to be spoken in the U.S. are English, Dutch, German, French, and Spanish.

From the mid-19th century on, the nation had large numbers of immigrants who spoke little or no English, and throughout the country state laws, constitutions, and legislative proceedings appeared in the languages of politically important immigrant groups. There have been bilingual schools and local newspapers in such languages as German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Greek, Polish, Swedish, Romanian, Czech, Japanese, Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Welsh, Cantonese, Bulgarian, Dutch, Portuguese and others, despite opposing English-only laws that, for example, illegalized church services, telephone conversations, and even conversations in the street or on railway platforms in any language other than English, until the first of these laws was ruled unconstitutional in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska).

Currently, Asian languages account for the majority of languages spoken in immigrant communities: Korean, the varieties of Chinese, and various Indian or South Asian languages like Punjabi, Hindi/Urdu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Persian, and others.

From the 1920s to the early 1950s, a dozen radio stations broadcast in immigrant languages (notably Yiddish for European Jewish immigrants in the Eastern seaboard), but was curtailed by the Great Depression (1930s), then the US government during World War II and came to an end in the late 1940s. Global radio waves on shortwave radio can broadcast in any language and today the internet offers a wide variety of media streamlinked in every major language to the USA and everywhere.

Typically, immigrant languages tend to be lost through assimilation within two or three generations, though there are some groups such as the Cajuns (French), Pennsylvania Dutch (German) in a state where large numbers of people were heard to speak it before the 1950s, and the original settlers of the Southwest (Spanish) who have maintained their languages for centuries.

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