One of the best ways to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it. Countless students of language have done this over the years by studying abroad or enrolling in a student exchange program. But thanks to the diversity in one borough of New York City, it may no longer be a requirement to travel to a foreign country in order to immerse yourself in a different language. Queens, New York, has often been called the “Language Capital of the World,” and for good reason – there are reportedly over 160 languages that are spoken in this ethnically rich area of the city.
There are two logical reasons why Queens has become such a treasure trove of languages. Located along the southwestern edge of Long Island, Queens is the largest of the five New York City boroughs. It’s also one of the oldest, having been originally established in 1683. In 2015, the US Census estimated that about 2,339,150 residents live in Queens, with nearly half of them (48%) having been born in a country outside the US. In fact, if Queens were its own city, it would be the fourth largest in the US with regard to population! Given its size, age, and the ethnic diversity, it only makes sense that such a variety of people make Queens their home. With that diversity comes, of course, languages!
The various ethnic groups that have made a home in Queens have also created their own culturally rich neighborhoods, where languages aside from English are often the predominant languages spoken – such as Little Guyana and Little India, for example. But the list of languages extends far beyond the number of ethnic neighborhoods in the borough. Here is just a partial list of the languages commonly spoken in Queens: Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Finnish, Latvian, Bosnian, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, Russian, Indonesian, Urdu, Lithuanian, Greek, Filipino, and more obscure tongues such as Bukharian and Waray-Waray, not to mention various Chinese dialects including Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and others.
Whether you are a student of language, or just someone who likes ethnic diversity, there’s no place in the world where you can be exposed to as many languages and various cultures as in this one single borough of New York City. This five-mile area that lies within metropolitan New York has managed to attract the broadest variety of people and languages anywhere around the globe. It’s no wonder that Queens is called “The Language Capital of the World!”