The ability to speak more than one language can come in handy, and not just if you’re visiting a foreign country. Bing bilingual can be a valuable asset in the United States, as more than 1 in 5 Americans speak a language other than English at home. So, what are the most bilingual cities in the country?

Worldwide, approximately 43% of the world’s population was bilingual in 2021. There are many benefits to being bilingual. It leads to improved memory and attention spans. Bilingual speakers are also better listeners because they can decode sounds and pick out relevant parts of speech. And there’s evidence that bilingualism can spark greater creativity, as well.

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The ability to speak two or more languages varies from place to place worldwide, with some 42% of the population in Switzerland using two or more languages in everyday life, but just 20% doing the same in France. That’s also true in the United States, where residents of some regions are more likely to be bilingual or multilingual than people in other places.

With this in mind, we decided to conduct a study to find out which U.S. cities were the most bilingual. To do so, we analyzed language data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 25 of the biggest cities in the country to determine how many residents speak just English, a language other than English, and both a language other than English and English “very well.”

Key findings

• Phoenix is the 8th most bilingual city in the country with 24% bilingual residents.

• On average, 1 in 5 residents in the largest cities in the nation are bilingual.

• El Paso, Texas is the most bilingual city in the country, followed by Los Angeles, California and San Jose, California.

• Detroit, Michigan is the least bilingual city in the country, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana and Nashville, Tennessee.

• On average, about 1 in 5 residents in the largest cities in the nation are bilingual, which roughly mirrors the 20.6% national figure mentioned above.

The most bilingual cities in America

american cities with the most bilingual residents

1. El Paso, Texas

The majority of the population in El Paso is Hispanic, with Hispanics surpassing non-Hispanic whites as the majority in 1965. As of 2021, the city is roughly 85% Hispanic/Latino. It’s the sixth-largest city in Texas with a population of 685,434 and the 22nd-largest in the United States.

Nearly 7 in 10 residents of El Paso speak a language other than English, and 39% of the population are bilingual. The most popular second language is Spanish, and 67% of residents speak it.

2. Los Angeles, California

With a population of nearly 4 million people, Los Angeles is also heavily Hispanic, with Latinos making up roughly half (48.5%) of the population, more than any other ethnic group. In all, 9% of Hispanics in the country live in Los Angeles County.

Our survey found that nearly 2 in 5 residents speak a language other than English, and 33% are bilingual. Unsurprisingly, the second-most-popular language, behind English, was Spanish: 42% speak it.

3. San Jose, California

San Jose is in Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, but it has its own identity separate from the City by the Bay—and it’s actually bigger. With just over 1 million residents, it’s the third-largest city in the state behind Los Angeles and San Diego.

The city is diverse, with roughly 36% of the population Asian and nearly one-third (31.45%) Hispanic. Among the total population, 57% speak a language other than English, and 33% are bilingual. The second-most-popular languages are Asian, and Pacific Islander languages: 26% speak them.

4. San Antonio, Texas

When people think of Texas, they often think of Dallas. But San Antonio is actually the state’s second-largest city after Houston, with a population of nearly 1.6 million, having increased by more than 19% since 2010.

More than 64% of the city’s residents are Hispanic, and 39% speak Spanish, the second-most-popular language. Three in 10 San Antonians are bilingual, and 43% speak a language other than English.

5. New York, New York

With a population of more than 19 million, New York is the largest city in the United States. Celebrated in song by Frank Sinatra and home to the World Trade Center and Empire State Building, it has a smaller Hispanic population than the other cities on this list at just over 19%.

Still, nearly half of New York residents (48%) speak a language other than English, with almost one-quarter of all residents (24%) speaking Spanish. A total of 26% are bilingual.

After we determined the most bilingual cities in the country, we wanted to find which ones have the fewest bilingual residents.

The least bilingual cities in America

american cities with the least bilingual residents

1. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit is another border city, but it’s on the Canadian rather than the Mexican border, and most residents in Ontario are English speakers. Once a city of more than 1.8 million people in 1950, the city’s population has fallen over the years to 664,139. Detroit, however, remains the largest city in Michigan and is known for its automobile industry.

Just 11% of Detroit residents speak a language other than English, and only 6% are bilingual. The most common language, other than English, is Spanish: 7% speak it. The Hispanic population accounts for just over 7% of the total.

2. Indianapolis, Indiana

The 16th-largest city in the country with nearly 900,000 residents, Indianapolis is the hub of a metro area that includes more than 2.1 million people.

In all, 14% of residents speak a language other than English, while 7% are bilingual. Just over 10% of the population is Hispanic, and 8% of the city’s residents speak Spanish, the No. 2 language.

3. Nashville, Tennessee

With 678,448 people, Nashville is the largest city in Tennessee. Known as the country music capital of the world, it’s at the center of a metro area with nearly 2 million people.

18% of residents speak a language other than English, and 8% are bilingual. Spanish is spoken more than any other language except for English, but just 9% speak it, and slightly more than 10% of the population is Hispanic.

4. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida with more than 929,000 people, sprawling over 875 miles on the state’s northeast Atlantic coast.

Among Jacksonville residents, 15% speak a language other than English, and 9% are bilingual. Spanish ranks second behind English as the most spoken language at 7%.

5. Columbus, Ohio

The capital of Ohio and the state’s largest city with nearly 914,000 residents, Columbus is at the center of a metropolitan area with more than 2.1 million people.

Just 5% of the population is Hispanic, with 4% speaking Spanish. Overall, 16% speak a language other than English, and nearly 10% are bilingual.


With the nation growing more bilingual and the demand for bilingual employees and services increasing, the advantages of speaking more than one language are apparent. Knowing Spanish can be particularly helpful, given that it’s the No. 2 language in most big cities—even those without a large Hispanic population.

If you haven’t grown up bilingual, don’t worry: Spanish tutors are available!

Methodology: To determine the largest cities in the U.S., we analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau. To find out which of these cities were the most and least bilingual, we analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey’s social and demographic characteristics tables for each city, which is the latest non-experimental data available.