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Top 10 Languages of Boston

Boston – the heart of Massachusetts and one of the oldest cities in the United States – boasts a rich tapestry of history and culture that is as diverse as it is deep. While it’s known mainly for its pivotal role in American history, this vibrant city is also a modern melting pot of languages, a testament to its ability to attract people from all walks of life.

The languages spoken in Boston reflect the waves of migration and immigration that have shaped the city over centuries. Here’s a brief overview of the city’s history, as well as a list of the top 10 languages of Boston (besides English).

History of Boston

Boston’s storied past extends beyond its founding in 1630 by English Puritan settlers. The area was initially inhabited by the Massachusetts people, an Indigenous tribe whose presence and culture significantly influenced the region’s early history. The name “Massachusetts” itself is derived from the tribe’s language, reflecting the area’s Indigenous roots.

As Boston evolved from a colonial settlement into a bustling port city, it became a beacon for migrants and immigrants seeking new opportunities. The 19th century saw an influx of Irish immigrants fleeing famine, followed by Italians, Eastern Europeans, and others, each group adding to the city’s cultural tapestry. This wave of immigration transformed Boston’s demographics, neighborhoods, and cultural landscape, laying the foundation for the diverse metropolis it is today.

The relationship between the new settlers and the Indigenous populations was complex and often fraught with conflict, leading to significant changes in the way of life for the Massachusett people and other local tribes. Despite these challenges, the enduring legacy of the area’s original inhabitants remains an integral part of Boston’s historical narrative.

Throughout its development, Boston has been a crucible of innovation, education, and social change. Its role in the American Revolution marked the beginning of its historical significance, while the subsequent centuries saw the city adapting to industrialization, urbanization, and global migration. Boston’s educational and cultural institutions, many of which were established in response to its growing diversity and the need for social progress, have made it a world-renowned center for learning and innovation.

Today, Boston’s history is a reflection of its resilience and capacity for renewal, shaped by the contributions of its Indigenous peoples, early settlers, and successive waves of immigrants. This rich tapestry of cultures and histories makes Boston not only a key historical city in America but also a vibrant, dynamic community that continues to evolve and embrace its diverse heritage.

Top 10 Languages of Boston (Other Than English)

Currently, approximately 650,706 people call Boston home. While most speak English, around 36 percent of Bostonians aged five and up (about 234,254 residents) speak a language other than English at home. Additionally, an estimated 17.4 percent of Bostonians (about 113,223 residents) are considered to have limited English proficiency (LEP).

Since that’s the case, that means locals speak a wide variety of languages. According to data from the US Census Bureau, here are the top 10 languages of Boston (other than English)

1. Spanish

As is true in many parts of the United States, Spanish is the most commonly used non-English language in Boston. There are an estimated 664,411 Spanish-speaking Bostonians, resulting in a population share of about 8.48 percent.

2. Portuguese

Portuguese is the second-most widely spoken non-English language in Boston. The estimated 217,460 speakers make up around 2.78 percent of the population.

3. Chinese

Boston is home to around 146,420 Chinese speakers (including Cantonese and Mandarin). That results in a population share close to 1.87 percent.

4. Haitian

In Boston, there are approximately 98,060 Haitian speakers. Together, they represent about 1.25 percent of the metro area’s population.

5. French

French (including Cajun) is the fifth most widely used non-English language among Bostonians. Overall, Fresh speakers make up close to 0.90 percent of the population.

6. Vietnamese

There are an estimated 43,312 Vietnamese speakers in Boston, resulting in a population share near 0.55 percent.

7. Arabic

Approximately 38,728 Boston residents speak Russian. In turn, Russian speakers make up about 0.49 percent of the city’s population.

8. Russian

With about 37,167 speakers in the city, Russian is the eighth most common non-English language spoken in Boston. Together, they represent an estimated 0.47 percent of the population.

9. Italian

Around 33,839 Bostonians speak Italian. As a result, Italian speakers make up close to 0.43 percent of the city’s population.

10. Hindi

In Boston, an estimated 32,146 residents speak Hindi. That gives them a population share of approximately 0.41 percent.

 

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