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The Census reports the English language ability of persons speaking a native language other than English. For the 65 and older population in the United States in 2000, English speaking ability was lower in all language categories than in the population as a whole. One possible explanation for this is that older non-native English speakers are less likely to have received formal English language instruction than younger non-native speakers.

Note that the total population includes persons 65 and over. The total population is not meant to represent the population under 65.

Language Ability, Persons 65+ and Total Population, 2000
Aged Population Percent Total Population Percent
Population 34,978,972 100.00% 262,375,152 100.00%
English only 30,564,132 87.38% 215,423,557 82.11%
Spanish 1,676,557 4.79% 28,101,052 10.71%
English very well 646,188 1.85% 14,349,796 5.47%
English less than very well 1,030,369 2.95% 13,751,256 5.24%
Other Indo-European* 1,931,908 5.52% 10,017,989 3.82%
English very well 1,157,723 3.31% 6,627,688 2.53%
English less than very well 774,185 2.21% 3,390,301 1.29%
Asian** 629,581 1.80% 6,960,065 2.65%
English very well 173,989 0.50% 3,370,041 1.28%
English less than very well 455,592 1.30% 3,590,024 1.37%
Other 176,794 0.51% 1,872,489 0.71%
English very well 96,072 0.27% 1,283,663 0.49%
English less than very well 80,722 0.23% 588,826 0.22%

* "Other Indo-European" excludes English and Spanish. "Indo-European" is not synonymous with "European." French, German, Hindi, and Persian are all classified as Indo-European. Hungarian, on the other hand, is lumped into "Other Language."

** "Asian Language" includes languages indigenous to Asia and Pacific islands areas that are not also Indo-European languages. Chinese, Japanese, Telugu, and Hawaiian are all classified here.

Also note that ability to speak English "very well" is based on the self-assessment of those responding to Census questions, not on a test of language ability.

Source: Census 2000 analyzed by the Social Science Data Analysis Network (SSDAN).

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