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Why Is the Spanish Language the Most Popular in the United States?

The popularity of Spanish is clear, especially given that it is the most often taught non-English language in secondary schools and higher education institutions. There are also various newspapers, weekly periodicals, and radio stations that appeal to Spanish speakers.

Many speeches delivered by high-ranking officials have a Spanish translation, and the official government website,, also has a Spanish version. If a politician is fluent in Spanish and is speaking to a Hispanic community, they will more likely deliver their speech in Spanish rather than English.

Despite the fact that Spanish is not classified as an official language in the United States (due to the country’s lack of an official language), it is the most commonly spoken foreign language in the country. The only exception is Puerto Rico, a US territory where Spanish is the official language.

Finally, it is not commonplace to see labels with information displayed in three languages – English, Spanish, and French – owing mostly to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Also Read: List of Political Parties in the USA

How Many Americans Speak Spanish?

Because the United States is one of the largest countries in the world, it should come as no surprise that individuals from all cultures and languages dwell there. Indeed, it is one of the reasons why the United States is sometimes referred to as a ‘melting pot’ – a place where many cultures and ideas coexist, often merging and forming new ones.

Although the United States does not have an official language, English is the most widely spoken, with Spanish a close second. But have you ever considered how many Americans are fluent in Spanish? If you have, the answer is provided below.

Spanish as Second Largest Language in the US

After English, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the United States. According to the American Community Survey, 38.3 million persons aged five and up speak Spanish at home, more than double the amount from 1990.

This figure excludes Puerto Rico’s 3.6 million native speakers. There are 45 million Hispanophones in the United States, comprising first and second-language speakers, as well as 6 million Spanish language students. As a result, the United States has the biggest Spanish-speaking community outside of Mexico. Approximately half of all Spanish speakers in the United States are also fluent in English.

It is gaining importance in business, trade, and politics. While Spanish is an official language in New Mexico and Puerto Rico, it is the second most spoken language in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

Hispanics and Latinos are the second fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, accounting for 17% of the population in 2012. This comprises 38 million Hispanophones, making the United States the biggest Spanish-speaking group outside of Mexico. According to research, 19% of Hispanics speak exclusively Spanish, 9% speak solely English, 55% have low English ability, and 17% are completely bilingual. Spanish speakers outnumber speakers of French, Hawaiian, and all Native American languages combined in the United States.

US is World’s fourth Largest Spanish Speaking Country

According to the “Instituto Cervantes” estimate, roughly 493 million people worldwide speak Spanish as their native language, ranking it second only to Mandarin Chinese. Mexico has the most native Spanish speakers, while the United States ranks fourth, with 40 times the number of Spanish speakers as any other non-official Spanish-speaking country.

According to the institute, by 2060, 27.5% of the US population will be of Hispanic descent, making the US the second biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world. This pattern dates back four centuries, beginning with Spanish colonization and continuing with continual migration from Mexico and other southern nations.

Due to economic linkages with Mexico and the purchasing power of the Hispanic community, Spanish language competence is becoming more valued in the United States. Despite economic linkages, the US-Mexico relationship is frequently characterized in terms of migration, which has recently increased as a result of global issues and existing imbalances.

Statistics-Spanish in the US

Let’s start with some numbers. The United States has a population of about 336 million people, making it the world’s third most populous country after India and China. It is estimated that 53 million of them speak Spanish, with around 41 million being native Spanish speakers and over 12 million being bilingual.

To put that figure in context, nations where Spanish is the official language, such as Spain and Colombia, have a smaller population – Spain has roughly 47 million citizens, while Colombia has about 51 million.

Even when speakers of French, Hawaiian, and several Native American languages are included, the number of speakers remains smaller than that of Spanish-speaking inhabitants.

Also Read: The Origin of the USA: The 13 Original Colonies

Top 10 States Where Spanish is Spoken

The state-by-state distribution of Spanish speakers varies. Some states have a smaller percentage of individuals who speak Spanish, while others have a larger percentage. 

Let’s look at the top ten states where Spanish is generally spoken:

1. Texas

Spanish is spoken by around 30%, or approximately 8 million people, of the population.

2. California

Spanish is spoken by around 28%, or approximately 10 million people, of the state’s population.

3. New Mexico

Nearly 550,000 New Mexicans, or roughly 28% of the population, speak Spanish.

4. Nevada

Over 560,000 individuals, or roughly 21% of the entire population, speak Spanish in Nevada.

5. Florida

It has about 4 million Spanish-speaking citizens, accounting for around 20.9% of the population.

6. Arizona

More than 1.3 million individuals, or more than 20% of the state’s population, speak Spanish.

7. New Jersey

It has 1.34 million Spanish speakers, accounting for around 15.9% of the population.

8. New York

Approximately 2.8 million individuals, or 15% of the population, speak Spanish in New York.

9. Illinois

Approximately 1.6 million people in Illinois speak Spanish, accounting for approximately 13.2% of the total population.

10. Colorado

Almost 600,000 Colorado people, or roughly 12% of the population, speak Spanish.

Correcting Myths About US Spanish

Spanish was the first language to arrive in what is now the United States. For 400 years, the two languages have coexisted, and modern immigrants continue to contribute variants.

Recent local, regional, and national news reports have propagated the myth that native Spanish speakers are just now beginning to populate major portions of the United States. However, Census data from the early 1990s show an increase in the U.S. Hispanic population, despite the fact that Hispanic groups and various versions of the Spanish language have been in the United States for well over four centuries.

Many Americans may be surprised to learn that Spanish predates English in the territories that today comprise the United States. The Spanish language is second only to Native American languages in terms of continuity and longevity in the United States, which were spoken for centuries prior to colonization.

Long-established Hispanic populations have lived in various places in the Southwest for centuries, where distinct forms of Spanish have coexisted with English. Similarly, Spanish has been spoken alongside English in some major urban areas of the United States for decades.

Brief History of Spanish in the US

Ponce de Leon brought the Spanish to the present-day United States in 1513, and they built their first permanent colony in San Agustin, Florida, in 1565. Between 1520 and 1570, they zealously explored the Atlantic coast. Later, they focused on the West and Southwest, leaving a lasting cultural and linguistic imprint in states like Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas.

Explorations in this region by the Spanish began in 1540 with Francisco Coronado and continued in 1598 with Juan de Onate. Santa Fe, New Mexico, was founded in 1605. It is believed that as many as 100,000 Spanish speakers lived in this region by the mid-nineteenth century.

Despite the expanding Spanish-speaking population, Anglo English-speakers settled in the Southwest, particularly in present-day Texas. The Texas Revolution of 1835 resulted in the formation of an independent Texan republic, and Texas was joined to the Union in 1845, sparking the Mexican-American War of 1846. The war’s aftermath culminated in the annexation of enormous territory by the United States in 1848.

This westward expansion, fueled by the concept of “manifest destiny,” resulted in the spread of English over North America, pushing Spanish to the margins as the dominant language. However, Spanish survived in many Southwestern areas, developing into distinct regional variants that Hispanics still use today.

While English eventually became the dominant language in the United States, Spanish remains an essential part of the country’s linguistic landscape, with major Spanish-speaking populations spread around the country.

Variations of Spanish Language in the US

Many native English speakers in the United States wrongly assume that “Spanish in the United States” is a unified entity comparable to American English. However, sociolinguists and dialectologists have demonstrated that American English is linguistically varied, but there is less awareness of variation in American Spanish.

The numerous groups of Spanish speakers who settled in the United States are responsible for the variety in Spanish. The Iberian Peninsula, despite its tiny size, has a long history of linguistic variety. When populations from various parts of Spain migrated to the New World, they brought multiple varieties of Spanish with them, resulting in what linguists refer to as the founder effect.

Linguists, for example, have discovered several Spanish dialects in the United States, each with traits dating back to 16th- and 17th-century Spain. Some vowel sounds in Spanish experienced diphthongization, merging two vowel sounds into one vocalic segment. Earlier monophthongal vowels are found in Colorado Spanish rather than later diphthongal innovations.

Words that began with /h/ in Spanish originated with /f/ in Latin, and this sound evolved throughout time. Many terms in Coloradan Spanish still bear traces of this development. Other variants of Spanish in the United States, such as New Mexican, Arizonan, and Texan, arose separately, resulting in distinct linguistic characteristics. These include consonant cluster reduction and word-final /s/ aspiration.

Furthermore, the Spanish variants spoken in the United States differ due to exchanges with Native American languages. The founder effect does not explain all Spanish dialects in the United States.

In addition to those deriving from the founder effect, there are currently many variants originating from the Spanish diaspora, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Mexican Spanish dialects, as well as others from diverse Spanish-speaking locations.

In summary, Spanish in the United States covers a variety of dialects that arose from a variety of historical and social circumstances during America’s 400-year existence.

Also Read: Top 10 Worst US Presidents

Spanish-English Coexistence

Despite Spanish’s blooming diversity and rising significance in the United States in the twenty-first century, it is critical to debunk the misconception held by certain English-only proponents that Spanish constitutes a danger to English. On the contrary, there are signs that the Spanish language’s tense system is becoming simpler in some parts of California (Silva-Corvalan 1991). Furthermore, immigrant languages frequently decline with the third generation of speakers.

While Spanish has thrived in some parts of the country, there are indicators of a potential shift in language usage among some speakers, even in localities where Spanish appears to be prospering.

For example, preliminary research suggests that Spanish may not sustain its long-term presence among Miami Cubans, calling earlier assumptions into question. Despite the presence of a lively Spanish-speaking society, many young second-generation Mexican-Americans in Raleigh, N.C., where the Hispanic population increased by almost 400 percent between 1990 and 2000, choose to communicate in English with their classmates and siblings (Carter 2004).

In conclusion, for many Hispanics, the chances provided by English-language fluency may exceed the cultural, social, and family benefits of maintaining Spanish.


While English is the most widely used language in the United States, it is crucial to highlight that no official language has been established. Nonetheless, given the population numbers stated previously, if an official language were to be formed, it would most likely include both English and Spanish.

The importance of Spanish in daily life goes beyond simply number representation. In educational settings, many students, including youngsters and young people, are actively studying Spanish. There are Spanish-language publications and radio stations, and the White House even has a Spanish-language version of its website.

Furthermore, several product labels, for example, contain information in both English and Spanish. Overall, it is clear that Spanish has a significant presence in the United States.

This page seeks to offer an answer to individuals who are inquisitive about the exact number of Spanish speakers in the nation. Furthermore, if you want to learn more interesting facts about languages from across the world (and there are lots), we recommend that you visit our blog area.


How Many People in the United States are Fluent in Spanish?

Although Spanish is not an official language of the United States (the country has no official national language), around 42 million Americans speak it as their first language, with an additional 15 million speaking it as a second language.
Percentage-wise, over 41.7 million individuals (about 12.5 percent of the population) speak Spanish as a first language, and that figure is growing. Furthermore, almost 15 million individuals in the United States speak Spanish as a second language. 

Is Spanish Becoming More Popular in the United States?

Spanish is by far the largest spoken non-English language in the United States today among individuals aged 5 and older, with over 37 million speakers. It is also one of the fastest growing, with the number of speakers increasing by 233% since 1980, when there were 11 million.

Why is Spanish Spoken in the United States?

This is because the Spanish were busily colonizing America long before the English established Jamestown. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers first set foot in what would become the United States, and in 1565, they established a permanent colony in St. Augustine, Florida.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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