Land of Opportunity: Increases in English Language Learners Across America

posted February 5th, 2015 by Brian Neese

Land of Opportunity Header - Silhouette of boy and girl against an American flag.

 

Across the United States, more people are speaking a language other than English at home — 60 million and counting. The percentage of Americans ages 5 and over who speak a language other than English at home increased from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2011. From 1980 to 2010, non-English language use increased 158 percent, while the overall population increased 38 percent.

 

As a result, there is an increased demand for instructors in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Information based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey offers further insight into how non-English language growth is taking place in individual states. Current and prospective TESOL instructors can also understand which language groups and languages are increasing across these states.

Non-English Language Growth by State

 

2013 ACS Language Prevalance Animated Gif

 

A total of 37 states have grown in non-English language use for people ages 5 and over from 2006 to 2013. Sixteen states have increased by at least 10 percent during this period, and five states — Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee — have surpassed the 15 percent mark for non-English language growth.

 

Several states claim an even higher percentage. In nine states — Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas — at least 25 percent of the population in 2013 spoke a language other than English at home. California led the nation at 43.8 percent.

Language Movers and Shakers in TESOL: A State-by-State Breakdown

As non-English language use rises, it’s clear that more TESOL instructors are needed. The article “60 Million and Counting: Foreign Language Growth and the Impact on TESOL” noted that TESOL and foreign language subjects were in demand in 31 states (62 percent of the country) in the 2014­–2015 school year. Further data can reveal which states may need TESOL instructors the most.

 

The following maps break down how four major language groups are spoken by English language learners (ELLs) in each state. The census data reflects a sample of school-age children from 5 to 17 years of age who speak a language other than English at home and speak English less than well.

Spanish Languages

Percent of Spanish Speaking Population, ages 5-17. Map.

 

From 2006 to 2013, four states — Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Dakota — have increased their percentage of ELLs who speak Spanish at home and speak English less than well. This suggests that there may be increased opportunities for TESOL educators in these states. For this time period, Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia had an average ELL population for Spanish in excess of 30 percent, which leads the country.

 

Spanish is easily the most commonly spoken language in America after English. Of all people ages 5 and over who spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, 62 percent (37.6 million) spoke Spanish — more than 10 times the next language on the list, Chinese.

 

Spanish includes Spanish, Spanish Creole and Ladino.

Other Indo-European Languages

Percent of Indo-Euro Speaking Population, ages 5-17.

 

Many states have an ELL population where Indo-European language use is increasing. Sixteen states had a larger percentage of the ELL population that met this qualification in 2013 than in 2006. This includes a state like New York where, generally, the ELL population for this language group has steadily increased.

 

French ELLs are perhaps the most common individual language in this group. For all people ages 5 and over who spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, French (1.3 million) came in fifth overall. German (1.1 million) placed seventh.

 

Other Indo-European languages include most languages of Europe and the Indic languages of India. These include Germanic languages, such as German and Dutch; Scandinavian languages, such as Swedish and Norwegian; Romance languages, such as French and Italian; Slavic languages, such as Russian and Polish; Indic languages; Celtic languages; Greek; Baltic languages; and Iranian languages.

Asian and Pacific Island Languages

Percent of Asian-Pacific Speaking Population, ages 5-17.

 

Asian and Pacific Island languages indicate a major language group where there is the most opportunity for TESOL instructors. In more than 20 states, the percentage of ELLs who speak one of these languages and lack fluency in English has increased from 2006 to 2013. Hawaii, Minnesota and New Mexico are a few of the strongest cases, where year after year, the data is the most consistent.

 

This language group is well-represented in the top-spoken languages across the United States. For all people ages 5 and over who spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, Chinese (2.9 million) is the second most commonly spoken language, followed by Tagalog (1.6 million) in third place and Vietnamese (1.4 million) in fourth. Korean is sixth with 1.1 million speakers.

 

Asian and Pacific Island languages include Chinese; Korean; Japanese; Vietnamese; Hmong; Khmer; Lao; Thai; Tagalog/Pilipino; Dravidian languages of India, such as Telugu and Tamil; and other languages of Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippine, Polynesian and Micronesian languages. 

All Other Languages

Other Languages ELL 2013

 

Languages not found in the above groups are on the rise for ELLs in America. More than 20 states had an increased percentage from 2006 to 2013 of ELLs who speak one of these languages. States such as Kentucky and Massachusetts saw notable rises in the percentage of speakers for this category of languages.

 

In 2011, no language in this group exceeded 1 million speakers for those ages 5 and over who spoke a language other than English at home. Arabic was the most common, with 952,000 speakers, followed by African languages, with 885,000 speakers.

 

All other languages include Uralic languages, such as Hungarian; Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew; languages of Africa; native North American languages, including the American Indiana and Alaska native languages; and indigenous languages of Central and South America. 

Meeting the Need for TESOL Educators

SEU - Gray Seal

Across language groups and regions of the country, the increase of non-English language use is clear. Because of this, more TESOL educators are needed.

 

Educators interested in helping the demand for English language instruction can consider an online Master of Education in TESOL from Southeastern University. Current classroom teachers, as well as those looking to switch careers and pursue teaching abroad, can earn this degree to enhance their career opportunities.


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