More Oklahomans speaking languages other than English

Saturday, May 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ More than 238,000 Oklahomans speak a language other than English at home, according to recently released data from the 2000 Census.

The number of residents whose primary language isn't English jumped 63 percent in the last decade.

The census showed 92.6 percent of Oklahomans speak only English in the home, down from 95 percent a decade ago.

The number of residents speaking another language at home is a small portion of the 3.45 million people in Oklahoma. But at 238,000, it equals about four times the population of Claremore.

Of the 238,000 who speak a language other than English at home, more than 141,000 reported speaking Spanish.

``English is the lingua franca, the commerce tongue,'' said Sebastian Lantos of Tulsa, vice president of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations. ``For many Hispanics, the intimate tongue, the language spoken in the home, is Spanish, but outside the home it is English.''

The information on languages, collected on the census long form, was released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The long form, mailed to one in six households nationwide, asks more in-depth questions about origin, ethnicity, home ownership, income and education.

The 2000 census showed a 108 percent increase in the Hispanic population in the state since 1990.

More than half of the 141,000 who speak Spanish in the home reported they are bilingual. When asked how well they spoke English, 75,780 respondents checked ``very well.''

In 1990, 145,798 residents reported speaking a language other than English in the home. Of that total, Spanish was the most common, accounting for 64,562 individuals. Among Spanish speakers, 63 percent reported they spoke English ``very well.''