http://nbclatino.com/2013/08/07/us-is-5th-largest-spanish-speaking-country-new-census-interactive-map/ By Claudio Iván Remeseira, @HispanicNewYork 10:50 am on 08/07/2013
The U.S. Census Bureau released an interactive, online map pinpointing the vast array of non-English languages spoken in homes across the nation.
In addition to Spanish, the map shows the national distribution of speakers of Arabic, Chinese, French, French Creole, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
After selecting one of those languages from the menu, users will see a national population density map, with each dot representing from 10 to 100 speakers, depending on the geographic concentration.
Of the 60.6 million people who spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, almost two-thirds (37.6 million) spoke Spanish. This places the U.S. as the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world –not the second one, as it is usually said— after Mexico (117 million), Spain (47.2 million), Colombia (47 million) and Argentina (41 million).
The Census Bureau also released “Language Use in the United States: 2011,” a report that shows the increase of non-English speakers over the past three decades. In this century, the percentage of people speaking a language other than English at home went from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 20.8 percent in 2011.
More than half (58 percent) of U.S. residents 5 and older who speak a language other than English at home say that they also speak English “very well.” Spanish speakers fare in this regard just below the middle of the chart, less well than speakers of German, French, Tagalog, and Arabic, and better than Russian, Korean, and Chinese speakers.
Figure from the Language Use in the United States: 2011 report by the American Community Survey Reports.
The percentage of people speaking English “less than very well” also grew from 8.1 percent in 2000 to 8.7 percent in 2007, but stayed at that level through 2011.
The percentage speaking Spanish at home grew from 12.0 percent in 2005 to 12.9 percent in 2011. In contrast to the overall trend, however, the percent that spoke Spanish at home but spoke English “less than very well” declined from 5.7 percent to 5.6 percent over the period.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Claudio Iván Remeseira is a New York-based award-winning journalist, writer, and critic. He is the translator of the Spanish-language on-line section of The Nation and editor of Hispanic New York, an online portal and blog on current events and culture. He is the Editor of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2010), an anthology of essays on the city’s Latino, Latin American & Iberian cultural heritage, and winner of the Latino International Book Award in the category of Best Reference Book in English (2011).
THE Iberian peninsula was conquered and settled many times, but only one of those conquests was a long-term linguistic success. The languages of the Celts and the Iberians left little mark on Spain. The Phoenicians were no more successful, although they bequeathed a memorable nickname to posterity:I-shepan-ha, “land of hyraxes” (more familiar asHispania). The Romans had better luck. Their soldiers’ and settlers’ vulgar Latin (always distinct from the written, classical kind) spread to the masses.
This and much more is recounted with good cheer in “The Story of Spanish”, a popular history by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, a Canadian couple who have written a similar history of French. Combining academic research with interviews on their travels, they tell the story of how a modest northern Iberian dialect became mother tongue to over 400m people.The overrunning of Spain by Germanic-speaking Goths failed to root out that rustic Latin. Nor did the long-term Muslim conquest of “al-Andalus”, beginning in 711 and continuing until the fall of Granada to Christian monarchs in 1492. Arabic gave many words to the local Castilian, but never replaced it. Nor was it ever obvious that Castilian would one day become Spanish. Of the kingdoms that reconquered Spain for Christianity, Castile was one of the least important. Neighbouring Asturias and Navarre were originally much bigger. But Castile’s place astride the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela helped it grow richer and more important, and after its merger with Léon it leapfrogged the others to lead the reconquest.
They have collected some interesting linguistic titbits. Castilian was probably influenced by Old Basque. Old Basque had no f-sound, which is why Latin ferrum became ferro in Italian and Portuguese but hierro in Spanish. The simple sound system is probably a result of Castilian’s quick rise, when many speakers would have learned it as a second language, shaving away complexity. And the straightforward writing system (almost any word can be read aloud accurately by anyone who knows the rules) is the result of unusually early and sustained efforts to impose a logic on the language. King Alfonso X (1221- 84) vigorously promoted scholarly translations into Castilian as well as Latin—a rarity in his time. And Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522) wrote a Spanish grammar (in Latin), the first systematic treatment of a vernacular European language.
The development of the language was uneven. Even at the height of Spanish power in Europe from 1500 to the mid-17th century, Spanish never became as prestigious as French or English would later. It never even conquered its own peninsula: Portuguese and Galician (a close relative), Basque and Catalan are vibrant to this day.
In the Americas, it would take centuries for Castilian to become universal. The Jesuits, keen linguists, preferred to preach in Nahuatl, Quechua and Guaraní, the better to convert the natives (and to increase their own influence). But Spain expelled them from the Americas in 1767 and tightened its grip on the colonies over the 18th century. This strengthened the position of Spanish, while ultimately stoking the Latin American revolutions of the early 19th century.
The official tongue of nearly two dozen countries, Spanish is one of the most important languages in history—but it punches far below its weight. Writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa have done well at high culture, and low culture from salsa to schlocky soap operas are popular exports. But Spain began its decline early and Latin America stagnated under dictatorship for much of the post-colonial period. Spanish now lags far behind its close rival, French, in diplomatic use. More patents are filed in German, which has far fewer speakers. And Spanish is widely learned as a foreign language in just three countries—Brazil, the United States and France, all of which border on the Hispanophone world.
Although it is a single language, Spanish varies considerably. This befuddles advertisers who would aim to sell to the entire Spanish-speaking world, like the shampoo-maker who discovered that cabello chino (“Chinese hair”) means curly hair in almost all Latin America save Ecuador, where it means straight hair.
The official language academies of the various Spanish-speaking countries are now working together to smooth out the most disruptive differences and create a kind of “general Spanish”. If this linguistic bonhomie is accompanied by economic and political co-operation, Spanish can look forward to a bright 21st century.