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Top 10 Languages of New York City

New York City

The largest city in the United States based on population is New York City by a wide margin. The Big Apple draws in people not just from around the US but from nearly every corner of the globe. As a result, its population isn’t just substantial; it’s also highly diverse. And since it’s a diverse city, that means its residents speak far more languages than many people expect.

Often, the languages present in a city partially reflect the area’s history. However, it’s also impacted by the people who immigrate to it today. With that in mind, here’s a look at the history of New York City, along with a list of the top 10 languages of NYC (not including English).

History of New York City

Before settlers arrived in the area that is now New York City, the region was home to indigenous people. The first native New Yorkers were the Lenape, and they lived along the Hudson and Delaware Rivers.

Europeans came to the area near the start of the 16th century, though settlement didn’t occur until 1624. At that time, 30 families sent by the Dutch West India Company formed the Nutten Island settlement, which was referred to as New Amsterdam.

A couple of years later, land was purchased from the local indigenous people on Manhattan Island, and the settlement relocated there. The new settlement began with less than 300 people. However, once established, the community blossomed. By 1760, the city – now called New York City – had a population of 18,000. Over the next 50 years, the population soared to over 202,500.

During its initial growth period, ownership of the land also changed hands. The British initially seized it in 1664, and in the century that followed, the area became highly diverse. English, French, and German settlers came into the region, along with more Dutch immigrants. Africans were also brought in as slaves.

New York City was ravaged by war during the fight for independence from Britain, though the city recovered with surprising speed. Its position gave it great strategic importance and allowed it to serve as a hub for many types of trade, particularly after the completion of the Erie Canal.

As time passed, immigrants from many other countries flocked to the city. They arrived from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and many other regions, often forming their own communities within the expanding city. As a result, New York City quickly became one of the most diverse locations in the entire country.

Top 10 Languages of New York City (Other Than English)

An estimated 8.3 million people call New York City home. While the majority speak English, approximately 47.8 percent of residents above the age of four (around 3.98 million people) speak a non-English language at home. Additionally, nearly 25 percent of New Yorkers (about 2.08 million residents) are classified as having limited English proficiency (LEP).

As a result, a wide array of languages is spoken in New York City on a daily basis. Here is a list of the top 10 languages of the Greater New York area (not including English) based on data from the US Census Bureau.

1. Spanish

As is true in many major US cities, Spanish is the most widely used non-English language in New York City, and by a substantial margin. In total, NYC is home to an estimated 3.99 million Spanish speakers, so they make up approximately 18.72 percent of the population.

2. Chinese

Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin) is the second most common non-English language spoken in the Big Apple, though it’s far behind Spanish. There are approximately 672,969 Chinese speakers in the city, giving them a population share of about 3.16 percent.

3. Russian

Russian is spoken by around 261,551 New Yorkers. As a result, they make up an estimated 1.23 percent of the metro area’s population.

4. Haitian

In fourth place on this list is Haitian. New York City is home to about 202,454 Haitian speakers, giving them a population share of approximately 0.95 percent.

5. Italian

In New York City, an estimated 192,287 residents speak Italian. That means Italian speakers make up around 0.90 percent of the city’s population.

6. Yiddish, Pennsylvania Dutch, or Other West Germanic Languages

Yiddish, Pennsylvania Dutch, or other West Germanic languages are spoken by approximately 172,008 New Yorkers. Together, they make up about 0.81 percent of the population.

7. Arabic

In New York City, around 161,677 residents speak Arabic. That gives them a population share of around 0.76 percent.

8. Korean

Korean is spoken by approximately 161,166 New York City residents. That means Korean speakers make up about 0.76 percent of the population.

9. French

French (including Cajun) is spoken by an estimated 152,322 New York City residents. As a result, they have a population share of about 0.72 percent.

10. Portuguese

Portuguese is the tenth most widely spoken non-English language in New York City. The estimated 151,090 speakers make up around 0.71 percent of the city’s population.

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