The Most Common Rare Languages in America
Can you believe that the USA has no official language?
Yes, most Americans speak English and it is the “de facto” national language, but it is not the official one. And although the reasons for one not being defined may be due to legal reasons, we like to think that this is a beautiful representation of what a rich culture the USA has.
English is spoken by approximately 78% of its population, but many other languages coexist in this land. During the history of this young nation, different migratory currents carry with them their languages and dialects, creating a rich linguistic scenario.
And nowadays, the constant cultural trade with migrants and the refugee crisis makes the US an ever-changing linguistic panorama, with increasingly more languages being spoken at home, the streets, and educational institutions.
Nowadays, experts confirm that there are more than 350 languages spoken in the US coming from all around the world. In this article, we will get to know 5 of the most common and rare ones that you might not have heard of before but are very much alive thanks to its speakers.
Keep reading to get to know 5 of the most spoken rare languages in America and their histories!
1. Quekchí or Qʼeqchiʼ
From Guatemala and Belize, Qʼeqchiʼ is one of the most common and rare languages found in the US. Belonging to the Mayan languages, Quekchí was one of the few survivors after colonizers came and now is the third-largest Mayan language in Guatemala. In the US, this language has more than 1.1 million speakers in part to Guatemalan immigrants, one of the biggest Hispanic populations in the country.
Learn some words in Quekchí!
The world = Ru chi ch’och’
The woman = Ixq
The man = Winq
Another rare language from Guatemala, Q’anjob’al or Kanjobal also has Mayan roots. A little over 100,000 people speak Q’anjob’al, primarily from the Huehuetenango region. This language is very much alive, taught in public schools in Guatemala and at home in the US. It is considered one of the most conservative languages in the Mayan family, with 26 consonant sounds and 5 vowels.
Learn some words in Q’anjob’al!
Mountain = Witz
Land = Txʼotxʼej
Star = Waykan
Tortilla = Patej
In the Mayan language family, we can find 31 different languages with only 2 of them being extinct nowadays. That means that most of these other languages are still spoken by different populations in Latin America and reach the US through immigrant homes.
Apart from Qʼeqchiʼ and Q’anjob’al, K’iche’ is one of the most common Mayan languages both in Guatemala and the US. With over a million speakers, K’iche’ is commonly used in media and education settings. It is the second most-spoken language in Guatemala, just after Spanish, and has 5 different dialects.
Learn some words in K’iche’!
To be together = Achi’lik
Work = Chak
Queen = Chichu’ ajawinel
Okay, Fine = Ja’e
Part of the Muskogean language family, Choctaw is spoken by Indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands. The Choctaw people are Native Americans that have lived in the Southeastern area of the USA and the North of Mexico.
With more than 11,000 speakers, Choctaw is found in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. And since 2010 in Oklahoma, Choctaw is an official language within the Choctaw Nation.
Learn some words in Choctaw!
Hi = Halito!
Thank you = Yakoke
House = Chokka
School = Holisso ápisa
As migrants from India travel to America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, Telugu started traveling around the world. This is a Dravidian language, with an alphabet formed by 60 symbols. It is the fourth most spoken language in India and is the official language in some of its states.
In the US, the Telugu population has rapidly increased over the years, with most of them settling in New Jersey, New York, DC, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley. With more than 900,000 speakers, Telugu is one of the fastest-growing languages in the United States.
Learn some words in Telugu!
USA = Yooyes ye – యూఎస్ ఏ
Summer = Vesavi – వేసవి
Art = Kala – కళ
Music = Sangeetam – సంగీతం
An ever-changing country, rich in culture and languages
America as a continent has a rich and complex history, where native languages, colonial influences, slave trades, and migratory currents influence each country’s society, culture, and linguistic scenario.
The US is no exception, a country whose culture is constantly evolving with more and more languages spoken amongst its population. Nowadays, we can see the acknowledgment of Native languages and the influence of migrants and refugees as the main linguistic changes in the United States. But this is something that also happened years ago with the arrival of African and European migrants, as well as the influence of colonizers.
Language is an essential part of our culture, a tool to keep alive our shared heritages, customs, and traditions. And because of this, it is extremely important to encourage and support ready access to these languages alive, supporting diversity all around.
As the America continues to expand its culture through the integration and celebration of different people and languages, Ad Astra is here to ensure everyone has a place in this land and can communicate!