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The Second Languages Spoken in the Neighborhoods of San Francisco

San Francisco, given its history as a place of new beginnings and a land of opportunity has drawn generations of immigrants and has woven together a community made up of strands from throughout the world. Although this is true of much of the West and certainly California, we have long felt from local pride that this city has a unique make-up. Let’s take look at the data on the languages spoken across the U.S., California and San Francisco.

English is spoken by 80% of the people in the U.S., the remaining 20% is distributed as follows:

Languages Spoken at Home other than English: Comparing San Francisco to California

Two notable distinctions emerge comparing the languages spoken in the city versus the broader state:

  • San Francisco has a much higher concentration of Chinese speakers than the rest of the state.

  • Spanish is much less prevalent in San Francisco than it is across California. The difference is in part explained by the large population of people of Mexican and Latin American origin in Los Angeles and southern California agricultural areas.

On a more granular scale, looking at the second language spoken in the neighborhoods of San Francisco, Chinese (Chinatown) and Spanish (in the Mission district) form the core non-English-speaker groups. In certain neighborhoods like Chinatown, Visitation Valley and Portola, even English becomes the second language behind Chinese. Going deeper into the neighborhood data, there are communities like the Hindi speakers clustering near the Financial District (we suspect these are young technology professionals). San Francisco’s Russians in the western neighborhoods of the Richmond, Presidio Heights and Sunset are representatives of an older wave of immigration and are mostly blue-collar retirees. Ironically, you will find very few Russian-speakers in the area known as Russian Hill. On the southern edges of San Francisco, the Tagalog speakers are more prevalent, bordering on Daly City that is a large population center for the Philippine-American community.

All of this diversity contributes to rich options when it comes to gastronomy. Clustering in the neighborhood near their downtown Consulate, there are alleys like Belden Place and Claude Lane with French bistros, cafes and restaurants. Other communities may not be as highly represented as residents as they once were but have still left their mark on the restaurants and architecture of the city. Take for example San Francisco’s Italian population that dominated the North Beach area (also known as Little Italy) in the northeast corner of the city and in parts of the Mission. Many have since moved out of the city to nearby suburbs, mostly replaced by the growth of the Chinese community. The restaurants of the area nonetheless still serve up the flavors of Italy.

See some recommendations for further fork-in-hand research from our North Beach neighbor:


American Translators Association 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco, Nov 2-5

We are thrilled that our home-base, San Francisco, will host the conference in 2016. We hope to spread our love for the city among our fellow translators.

Connecting: across the table

While you are enjoying the ATA conference at the Hyatt near the Embarcadero, make sure you grab a bite to eat at our nearby Ferry Building that plays host to numerous restaurants, farm-to-table boutiques and a weekend farmers’ market.

See local blogger Joe Bonadio’s tweets and posts (@FerryPlaza): 10 things to eat at Ferry Plaza right now.

Connecting: across the worldwide web

San Francisco, as a port city has always been about ties to faraway places. Nowadays, thanks to Silicon Valley in our backyard, those connections across the world happen in nanoseconds online. You’ll find many technology companies headquartered here that reflect our culture of building bonds in new ways, such as: LinkedIn, Uber, Pinterest, Twitter, Airbnb, Lending Club, Salesforce

Change leads to disruption and the recent tech boom involves some controversy as rising rents have led to the loss of some of the ethnic neighborhood character, yet the city still retains its vibrant cultural diversity.

F2-Global is a language service provider based in San Francisco. Our founder is a member of NCTA - Northern California Translators Association and ATA - American Translators Association. Data for the above article were obtained from the US Census, and from the Modern Language Association. Opinions are solely our own, spoken as residents of the city.


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