Census data shows more Minnesota residents are multilingual
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is seeing a growing number of residents who speak multiple languages, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
The figures show that more than 11 percent of Minnesota residents don’t speak English at home, Minnesota Public Radio reported . About 60 percent of those people reported that they speak English “very well.”
The bureau found that Nobles and Ramsey counties have the largest number of residents who don’t speak English at home.
Spanish, Somali and Hmong are the most common non-English languages spoken in the state. There are also a number of Native American languages, German and several languages from India.
Chalee Yang and his family came to the U.S. from Thailand in 2004. It can be difficult to balance the Hmong world with the English world, he said.
“I don’t prefer one (language) over (the other),” Chalee Yang said. “I see both as important. Each one will have their own opportunities to come.” He said he is also learning how to speak Spanish, Thai and Lao.
Yang’s father, Bee Yang, said he believes speaking multiple languages will help his son get a job. But the elder Yang said he’s worried that his children’s multilingualism won’t survive in a society that focuses on speaking English and that fewer young people are speaking Hmong.
“If they don’t hold on tight to it they might forget who they are,” Yang said as his son translated.
While students at the University of Minnesota must show proficiency in English, knowing other languages can be useful for research, said Frances Vavrus, a university professor who helps with admissions for one of the university’s graduate programs.
“I can think of a student right now that I have from Kenya. He has excellent English skills but he conducted much of his research in Kenya using the national language, Kiswahili,” Vavrus said.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org