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The US Census has reported that Hindi is the largest Indian language in the US among the 3.5 million Indians (Indo-Guyanese and other Indo-Caribbeans included) in the country. A larger number listen to Hindi music, even though Indo-Guyanese may not know Hindi, virtually all of them listen to Hindi songs. Hindi has been brought to the US by immigrants from Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius, Africa and India. While not spoken at home as the primary language among Guyanese Americans, many of them, especially those who attend mandirs know the language well enough to comprehend it in reading, speaking and listening. Many others show an interest in the language. It comes in handy when they visit India or attend Bollywood-type shows in the US where the emcees often speak in Hindi.

While Hindi is not widely spoken in Guyana, many Guyanese are literate in Hindi (as well as Bhojpuri, the language of their fore-parents). Those who know the language and have migrated to the US seek to impart it to those with an interest. Many American-born children of Guyanese immigrants learn Hindi through private lessons at mandirs, and at universities where it is taught. Several mandirs provide free Hindi lessons. One public high school in New York City also offers Hindi as a foreign language; several Guyanese have enrolled in it. One year of foreign language is mandatory for high school graduation in NYC as well as a college diploma (in Graduate Studies) with rare exceptions. Learning Hindi fulfils that requirement.

Census data reveals that some 60 million people in the US speak a language other than English at home. Some 650,000 people speak Hindi at home. Some 3.5 million or one per cent of the American population is of Indian descent. They have the highest average income in America.

The top foreign languages spoken in US homes are Spanish (more than 37.4 million speakers); Mandarin (2.9 million); Tagalogor Filipino (1.6 million); Vietnamese (1.4 million); French (1.3 million); Korean (1.1 million); German (1.1 million); Arabic (925,000); Russian (880,000); Hindi 650,000; Urdu (400,000); Gujarati (370,000), Bengali and Punjabi (250,000 each). There are also speakers of other Indian languages such as Telugu; Tamil (Madrasi); Marathi (Bombay); Kannada; Oriya; Assamese; Kashmiri; Bihari; Sindhi; Rajasthani and Munda, etc.

This is the most comprehensive data on languages spoken in the US with nearly all the languages of the world spoken in America, reflecting the varied ethnic groups in the country. There are also some 150 native languages spoken among the varied American tribes. Millions of Americans speak more than one language at home. More than a third of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home. And close to 200 different languages are spoken in the city. The census said that knowing the number of languages spoken at home and/or in a district, and how many speak these languages provides valuable information to policymakers, planners and researchers on addressing diversity concerns and social issues.

 

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