Exploring the Languages of the South
The United States has become an incredibly diverse and multicultural nation. While those who pass the tests can get nationalized as citizens, many uphold their own cultures, attitudes and continue to speak their native language. All of this helps to create a much more expansive country overall, and in the South, there’s certainly an abundance of cultures and spoken languages.
Of course, the Deep South is known for many different things, such as heat, cuisine and a distinct Southern culture. However, it’s perhaps not quite as appreciated how multilingual Southern and Southwestern states like Texas and Louisiana are now. So we’re exploring the many languages of the Southern US.
Given its former owners and its proximity to neighboring Mexico, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the Southern states. In fact, one of the South’s favorite cuisines, that of barbecue, derives from the Spanish term “barbacoa.” However, the technique isn’t defined as being Spanish in origin, but rather a native cooking method from the Caribbean.
Over the decades, Spanish has become more and more prevalent in the South, with many people moving to the U.S. from Spanish-speaking nations and staying true to their lingual roots. As of 2019, nearly one-third of Texans spoke Spanish at home, helping to make it the second-most-diverse state in America.
Despite this, English is still the dominant language and the one that’s often required for use in public and to get a job. The figures for Spanish speakers both reflect the diversity in Texas as well as the number of people who all but need to learn a second language. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Southern states continue to see the largest numbers of people going online to learn English with affordable tutors. Services like this even offer their own platform, meaning there are fewer barriers for anyone wanting to learn English.
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One of the most popular niche facts about spoken languages in the U.S., particularly in the Deep South, is that French has a stronghold in Louisiana. New Orleans, or rather La Nouvelle-Orléans, historically saw itself as a separate city from the rest of the New World, and to this day, the city still revels in the cultures and cuisines that French Catholics left behind. The most notable of these is Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” which takes place before Lent.
Louisiana also has a network of French immersion schools, French-speaking tables, Cajun French speakers and a general effort to preserve the language.
As for the rest of the most common languages across the U.S. that aren’t English or Spanish, you’ll find a somewhat surprising wedge of Vietnamese from Texas up to Nebraska, as well as an abundance of Muskogean speakers in Mississippi, in addition to pockets of Jewish and Lebanese culture. The South is truly a melting pot worth exploring.