* Adults are defined as people age 18 or older. “Fluent” is defined as speaking the non-English language “well” or “very well.”
Source: NORC at the University of Chicago, General Social Survey.
Data from the General Social Survey (GSS), administered by NORC at the University of Chicago, provide a somewhat different estimate of the extent of multilingualism in the United States than that based on U.S. Census Bureau data (see Indicator V-5a). The focus of the GSS is respondents’ proficiency in a language other than English, and thus the survey did not include questions about their proficiency in English.
An advantage of GSS data, however, is that they capture the two key groups missed by the Census Bureau: those individuals who learned a language other than English outside the home; and those who learned the language at home as children but who now, while still fluent in the non-English language, speak only English in their own homes.
For a measure oflanguage skills at the high school level, see “Advanced Placement Exams Taken in the Humanities.”
For trends in course-taking in languages other than English,see “Language Instruction in Elementary and Secondary Schools” and "Postsecondary Course-Taking in Languages Other than English.”
The Humanities Indicators and Departmental Survey have been made possible in part
by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the
Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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