Introduction Portuguese is the eleventh most commonly spoken non-English language in the USA, with the 2007 American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau recording 687,126 speakers, making up 0.24% of the population and 1.24% of US LOTE speakers. As noted in Table 1.1, the Portuguese-speaking population officially grew by 31 percent in the decade between 1990 and 2000, and a further 22 percent from 2000 to 2007. US Census numbers undoubtedly represent an extreme undercount, however, given that the Brazilian government estimates that the number of Brazilians alone living in the USA surpasses one million (Lokensgard 2007: 1). Besides Brazilian immigrants, Portuguese speakers in the USA are mainly Portuguese (from the Azores Islands and mainland Portugal) and Cape Verdeans, and on a much smaller scale, immigrants from Mozambique and Angola. Although immigration from Portugal has practically halted and third generation Portuguese-Americans very rarely maintain productive skills in Portuguese, Cape Verdeans and Brazilians continue to arrive in the USA, perpetuating the language. Indeed, in certain areas with high concentrations of Portuguese-speaking immigrants, such as Massachusetts, Portuguese is the second most spoken foreign language, preceded only by Spanish (US Census Bureau 2009). As long as the influx of Portuguese-speaking immigrants continues, Portuguese will continue to thrive in US territory. Otherwise, only robust and efficient institutional initiatives will succeed in maintaining Portuguese among American-born generations and in reversing the usually inevitable path to language shift.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)