With 2.3 million people coming from all continents, New York’s multicultural New York City is emerging as the most linguistically diverse urban area in the United States.
According to the mayor’s office, in Queens, where almost half of the residents were born in another country, more than 160 languages ??are spoken, especially Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Italian, Tagalog (from the Philippines) and Greek.
The ethnic plurality of this metropolitan district, the largest in New York City, is so large that each neighborhood can be identified with the languages ??and dialects spoken by its neighbors, so that a walk along its main avenues becomes a Travel through different cultures and latitudes.
Roosevelt Avenue, northeast of Queens, is the artery that runs through neighborhoods like Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona, where the largest proportion of immigrants are concentrated, and where Spanish, Nepalese, Tibetan, Javanese, or Indonesian speakers share a Same postal code.
This area is connected to the city center by metro line 7, known as the “International Express” because of the significant presence of travelers from different countries, mostly Chinese, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Colombian and Bangladeshi.
“There is a lot of diversity and you find a lot of people from your own country, and that makes living here very comfortable,” said Sudip Plama, a young Nepalese living in Jackson Heights.
And the great demographic and cultural diversity of this district is reflected in every corner: banks, restaurants and restaurants with workers of different races and nationalities, vibrant and varied music, as well as pamphlets and posters on public transport in a dozen languages .
The population of Queens receives information on health, security and electoral issues in several languages ??and this makes life easier for residents who do not speak English, such as Irina Saduakasova and her husband, Pirjas, who emigrated from Kazakhstan 14 years.
“In pharmacies, restaurants and hospitals, there is always someone who looks after you in Russian or who can translate, and that makes it very easy to live in this city,” Saduakasova said.
The couple belongs to the large ex-Soviet community of former Soviet republics residing in the Rego Park and Forest Hills neighborhoods, where Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and other Eastern European languages ??are prominently represented.
In order to meet this demand, the Queens Public Library has a huge collection of works in more than 40 languages, including about 40,000 books in Southeast Asian languages ??such as Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati (The mother tongue of Gandhi) and Urdu (Pakistan’s national language).
The district also has its own “Chinatown”, located in the neighborhood of Flushing, in which the majority of the residents are of Asian origin, and where not only can be heard Mandarin, but also dialects like Cantonese, Shanghainés or The taishanés.
On the other hand, to find languages ??in danger of extinction does not have to cross the most remote places of the planet nor to visit indigenous towns that do not have contact with the modern world, since it is enough to explore the city of New York.
According to the Association of the Endangered Language (ELA) association, it is estimated that the Big Apple could hold up to 800 languages, some of which have not been documented or are spoken by a few people living in Queens.
In this district there are threatened languages ??that could cease to exist in the next decade due to the generational changes, such as Chabacan (Philippine Creole language derived from Spanish) and the Bukhara, a dialect of Tajik spoken by the Bujaris Jews, now more Numerous in Queens than in their hometown.
Also, in the Corona neighborhood, the largest enclave of the Mexican community in the city, some of the few families still speak indigenous languages ??such as Zapoteco, Totonaco and cuicateco, according to ELA data.
In this way, Queens is considered a mecca for linguists, where the history, culture and identity of very diverse peoples is kept alive and, at the same time, a place where many minority languages ??struggle to survive.