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Twenty-two Percent of Non-Hispanic Americans Speak a Second Language

Twenty-two Percent of Non-Hispanic Americans Speak a Second Language

Spanish most common second language, followed by French and German

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup poll, conducted March 26-28, shows that 22% of English speaking U.S. adults speak a second language well enough to hold a conversation. The poll also finds that Spanish (at 55%) is far and away the most common second language. Given that many Americans are of Hispanic descent, it is not surprising that Spanish is the most commonly spoken second language. When the analysis is limited to just those who are non-Hispanic, the percentage who speak a second language diminishes slightly to 22%. Spanish remains the most frequently spoken second language among non-Hispanics, but the proportion of bilingual Americans who speak it drops from 55% to 43%. French is the next most common second language at 23%, with German third at 13%.

Limiting the analysis to non-Hispanic Americans does not change any of the key relationships observed in the data. Still, we find the percentage of those who speak a second language is much higher among those age 18-29, those with a college education, those living in urban areas, and those who describe their ideology as "liberal." Non-Hispanic Americans in the East (23%) and West (33%) are much more likely to speak a second language than are those living in the South (19%) and Midwest (18%).

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 26-28, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

BASED ON -- 939 -- NON-HISPANICS; ±4 PCT. PTS.

Do you personally speak a language other than English well enough to hold a conversation?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

22%

78

0



Which foreign language do you speak? [Open-ended]

BASED ON -- 205 -- NON-HISPANICS WHO SPEAK FOREIGN LANGUAGE; ±7 PCT. PTS.

 

 

2001
Mar
26-28

   
 

%

Spanish

43

French

23

German

13

Italian

3

Chinese

2

   

Other

16

No opinion

0



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