Language Diversity in Champaign County, Champaign, and Urbana

This month on the blog, we’re highlighting language diversity in Champaign County, the City of Champaign, and the City of Urbana. First, we’ll look at how many residents in each area speak a language other than English at home; next, we’ll examine what languages are spoken and how many households in each area have limited English proficiency. Finally, we’ll consider what this means for planning, public participation, and service provision in Champaign County.

Table 1.

U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S1601; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 April 2019).

While the majority of the population aged five and over of each of the three areas speaks English at home, each area has a significant percentage that speaks a language other than English at home. More than 17 percent of Champaign County households speak a language other than English at home. (A note: data for Champaign County includes not only unincorporated Champaign County areas, but also all Champaign County municipalities, including Champaign and Urbana.) More than a fifth of households in the City of Champaign and over a quarter of households in the City of Urbana speak a language other than English at home.

Table 2.

U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S1601; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 April 2019).

Among the population aged five and over that speaks a language other than English at home, the largest percentage in all three areas speaks an Asian or Pacific Island language: 7.7 percent in Champaign County, 8.7 percent in the City of Champaign, and 15.4 percent in the City of Urbana.

In Champaign County, the second-largest percentage (4.7 percent) of this population speaks Spanish at home, while in both the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana, the second-largest percentage speaks another Indo-European language (5.6 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively).

Table 3.

U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S1602; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 April 2019).

Slightly under five percent of all households in Champaign County have limited English proficiency; this is also true of 5.2 percent of City of Champaign households and 7.5 percent of City of Urbana households.

Table 3 shows some variance in the percentage of households with limited English proficiency by language spoken.

In all three areas, households speaking Asian and Pacific Island languages at home comprise the greatest percentage of households with limited English proficiency. Among households speaking Asian and Pacific Island languages at home, 33.9 percent in Champaign County, 31.5 percent in the City of Champaign, and 37.0 percent in the City of Urbana have limited English proficiency. In Champaign County, Spanish-speaking households have the second-highest percentage of households with limited English proficiency, while in the City of Champaign it’s households speaking other Indo-European languages and in the City of Urbana it’s households speaking other languages.

We’ve mentioned before the importance of public participation in planning, and how critical it is to ensure that all residents can participate and provide input in planning and other public processes. Language barriers present response barriers: households with limited English proficiency may have difficulty responding to surveys or attending meetings, and without their participation, public input received may not be fully representative of the community. This is why it’s important to understand what languages are spoken in a community, and where and among what households there may be a need for translation of planning documents and surveys and interpretation of meeting presentations and content. This type of analysis allows agencies to direct translation and interpretation resources to where they’re needed most, to mitigate response barriers and make sure that public participation is open to all members of the public.

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