Learn More: English Language Proficiency

What does this mean?

Data on ability to speak English were obtained from the American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for 2007-2011. Respondents who reported that they spoke a language other than English were asked to indicate their ability to speak English in one of the following categories: "Very well," "Well," "Not well," or "Not at all."

The data on ability to speak English represent the person's own perception about his or her own ability to speak English.

The following table provides examples of the languages included in each category listed on the Hillsborough Community Atlas.

Language Group Examples
Spanish Spanish and Spanish Creole languages
Other Indo-European languages French (French, Cajun, Patois)
French Creole, Haitian Creole
Portuguese and Portuguese Creole
Other West Germanic languages (Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch, Afrikaans)
Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
Serbo-Croatian (Serbo-Croatian, Croatian, Serbian)
Other Slavic languages (Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian)
Other Indic languages (Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Romany)
Other Indo-European languages (Albanian, Gaelic, Lithuanian, Rumanian)
Asian and Pacific Island languages Chinese (Cantonese, Formosan, Mandarin)
Mon-Khmer, Cambodian
Miao, Hmong
Other Asian languages (Dravidian languages such as Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Turkish)
Other Pacific Island languages (Chamorro, Hawaiian, Ilocano, Indonesian, Samoan)

Why is it important?

In recent years, there has been an increase in the percentage of U.S. residents who primarily speak a language other than English. According to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, 58.0 million (20 percent) of the 286.4 million people aged 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. This percentage increased from 18 percent in 2000 and from 14 percent in 1990.

During 2007-2011, approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population could have been considered linguistically isolated due to their inability to speak English well. Among certain subpopulations, however, the percentage of people who said they spoke English less than very well was high: 48 percent of individuals spoke an Asian or Pacific Island language, 45 percent spoke Spanish, and 32 percent spoke another Indo-European language. The types of languages spoken within linguistically isolated households across the United States vary by region.

The language barrier between individuals who speak English "not well" or "not at all" and the general population may pose a barrier to receipt of medical and social services. The inability to speak English well can also slow down immigrants' process of adjustment to the new society that they had entered. Finally, low English proficiency can limit students' acquisition of English or mastery of academic content.

How are the data collected (methods)?

Every year the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey (ACS), which is a nationwide survey that collects and produces information on demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics about our nation's population. The U.S. Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million households across the country each year to participate in the ACS. The sample is designed to ensure good geographic coverage in order to produce a good picture of the community's people and housing by surveying a representative sample of the population.

The data from the American Community Survey are made public through the U.S. Census Bureau Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website. website.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website.

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