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Language generally speak

Codes and Frequencies

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For adults aged 18 and older, LANGSPEAK reports answers to the question, "In general, what [which] language do you speak?" Interviewers prefaced this question with the statement, "First, I would like to ask [a few questions] about the language you use most often" and handed respondents a flashcard listing the following choices: "Only Spanish," "Mostly Spanish," "Spanish and English about the same," "Mostly English," "Only English," "Other Language." According to the Field Representative's Manual for 2000, if a respondent gave an answer that did not fit one of the response categories, the interviewer was to direct attention back to the flashcard with the probe, "Please pick the closest answer you can."

Rationale for Inquiry 

In 2005 and later, the interviewers asked this question of all sample adults; in 2000, they asked only sample adults of Hispanic origin or ancestry. In the latter year, LANGSPEAK was part of a section of the survey focusing on "Hispanic Acculturation." The 2000 Manual described this section as follows:

It is based on a scale developed by Mexican American researchers and asks about the use of Spanish and English in daily life. Along with questions about country of birth from the core, it helps identify the degree of acculturation of the Hispanic population with the English-speaking majority. We can assess the relationship between acculturation status and knowledge and attitudes about cancer risks and prevention. It will also help us target sources of information about cancer and cancer risk factors to the growing Spanish-speaking population of the United States.

Related Variables 

In 2000, additional acculturation questions regarding language were asked of sample adults of Hispanic origin or ancestry. LANGCHILD indicates the language spoken as a child (with acceptable responses referring only to English, Spanish, and "other language"). If respondents did not indicate "other language" for LANGSPEAK and LANGCHILD, they were also asked the language they usually used for reading (LANGREAD), speaking at home (LANGHOME), speaking with friends (LANGFRIEND), thinking (LANGTHINK), listening to the radio (LANGRADIO), and watching television (LANGTV).

The 2000 Manual explained why these follow-up questions were skipped when "other language" was chosen for both the language usually spoken now and for the language spoken as a child:

The original questions were developed by Mexican-American researchers whose test populations spoke English or Spanish. But other languages are spoken in some Hispanic countries such as: Portuguese in Brazil, German in Argentina, or French in the Caribbean. If the respondent spoke mainly another language as a child and as an adult, it did not make sense to keep asking about the ratio of English to Spanish in his or her usual activities.


Apart from universe changes, this variable is largely comparable over time. As noted in the first sentence in the previous section, there were also very slight differences in the question wording between 2000 and 2005 and later. These did not change the substantive meaning of the question. Rather, the difference in question wording merely reflected the fact that, in 2000, LANGSPEAK was the first in a series of questions about language use, while in 2005 and later, LANGSPEAK was the only question asked about language use.


  • 1987: Sample persons age 18+ who are of Hispanic origin and received the Spanish questionnaire and speak some English, or who received the English questionnaire and speak some Spanish.
  • 1992: Sample persons age 18+ in quarters 1 and 2 and in 2 weeks of quarter 3 who were of Hispanic origin, received the English supplement questionnaire and also speak Spanish OR were given the Spanish supplement questionnaire and speak English or whether they spoke English was not ascertained.
  • 2000: Sample adults age 18+ of Hispanic origin or ancestry.
  • 2005; 2010; 2015: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1987, 1992, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015