Given that Alhambra has a multi-racial population, it’s not surprising that only a quarter of residents speak only English at home. More than a half of them speak either Chinese or Spanish as well, and there is a dazzling array of spoken languages beyond these major three. The Source’s research team has written up a linguistic diversity report that maps the different languages that Alhambrans speak.
Alhambra is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the San Gabriel Valley, according to the 2013 American Community Survey. Out of 40 official census language categories, Alhambra has 31 languages represented, compared to 27 for Monterey Park, 25 for San Gabriel and Rosemead, and 17 for San Marino and East L.A.
Chinese is the most spoken language at home in Alhambra. Among residents, 35% speak Chinese; 26.2% speak Spanish; 25.5% speak only English; and 4.6% speak Vietnamese. Other languages include Hindi, Arabic, Russian, and Asian languages such as Laotian and Cambodian.
Among its neighboring cities, Alhambra has the highest percentage of residents who speak Laotian, Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Persian, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian and French. Meanwhile, Alhambra has the highest percentage of Spanish speakers compared to Rosemead, Monterey Park, San Gabriel and San Marino.
Alhambra also has a significant number of residents who are non-native speakers of English. These are people who reported speaking English less than "very well" in the survey. Some language groups in Alhambra have more non-native speakers than others, exceeding 50% in some cases.
In navigating daily life and seeking social connections, some groups may be doubly isolated, meaning they may encounter communication barriers not only in relation to English, but also to other majority languages of the local area, in this case Chinese, Spanish and, to some extent, Vietnamese. For example, the 57.3% of Laotian speakers who speak English less than very well may only share a common language with other Laotian speakers, who constitute only about 0.13% of the Alhambra population.
The language barrier could be one of the elements that result in the steep disparity between specific ethnic groups—the Source reported disparities among the Asian community last month. If you happen to know someone who faces the challenge of linguistic isolation, please share your story with us in the comment section below. What is your experience living in a multilingual Alhambra? Do you find yourself wishing you knew more languages so that you may connect with neighbors?