Census 2000 Releases National Statistics on Foreign-Languages Spoken in US Households: Chinese Now Ranked  #2  in the Nation after Spanish, up from #4 in 1990. Four of Top-10 Languages Now Spoken in US are Asian.


In late September, the Census Bureau published national statistics highlighting the prevalence of foreign-languages spoken in US households by persons age 5 years and over. While Spanish remains the most prevalent foreign language spoken in the US, Chinese is now ranked #2 in the nation, overtaking French and German since the last Census in 1990. 81% of Chinese-Americans  now report that they speak  Chinese at home.


"The dramatic increase in Chinese as a foreign language spoken in US households is completely consistent with the strong growth of the US Chinese population which has already been documented by Census 2000," says Saul Gitlin, Executive Vice mPresident of Strategic Services at Kang & Lee Advertising.  "As Chinese-American population growth since 1990 has been predominantly driven by new immigration to the US, it follows that Chinese language usage in the country should increase correspondingly.  It is also interesting to note that four of the top-ten most prevalent languages spoken in US households are now Asian, and each has improved its national ranking since 1990," Gitlin notes. Besides Chinese, Tagalog - the language of the Philippines -  is now ranked #5, up from #7 in 1990; Vietnamese is now ranked  #6, up from #12 in 1990; and Korean is now ranked #8, up from #9 in 1990.


In the corporate arena, the increased prevalence of Asian language usage in US households has obvious implications for the way marketers communicate with Asian consumers across the country.  "Asians have one of the most attractive demographic profiles of any audience in the US. Not only are Asians the fastest growing racial group in the US (49% population growth in the last 10 years), but they also boast the highest median household income ($9000 ahead of Caucasian households), the highest level of educational attainment, and one of the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, the bulk of the Asian market is concentrated in just a handful of DMAs, allowing for highly targeted and cost-efficient outreach to this audience," says Gitlin. As marketers seek to tap these demographics, they will now need to pay even more attention to the role that Asian language communications and media strategies must now play to achieve maximum reach to, and relevance for, Asian consumers. "The good news is that with the growth in Asian language usage reported in the Census, we have seen a corollary explosive growth of Asian language media vehicles in the United States that serve the informational and entertainment needs of the Asian population. There are now more than 500 distinct Asian media outlets available across the country which marketers can avail themselves of to reach the Asian population," Gitlin notes.


While categories such as telecommunications and financial services have been very active in the Asian American market and media arena for the last 15 years, there are still enormous opportunities being  quietly left on the table for a wide variety of marketers in the US.  One example is evident from abundant research which demonstrates that Asians have the highest home computer penetration of any group in the US and are the most mature and active users of the internet.  Such data points to tremendous opportunities for marketers of personal computers, software, internet access services such as DSL, and web-based products and offers. Similarly, the notably strong consumption by Asians of a broad range of packaged goods products, combined with the emergence of major Asian supermarket chains in key regions of the US, presents new opportunities for a wide range of packaged goods categories - from food, to beverage, to household products. "These categories and many others still remain largely inactive in targeting Asians," says Gitlin.  "However, as they begin to turn their attention to this market, careful consideration and development of linguistically and culturally meaningful communications will give them the best chances for success."