When I was studying Chinese the school had a policy that we had to speak Chinese all the time, even during our lunch breaks. A well intentioned rule, but simply not one we were able to follow. Especially those of us whose Chinese was still not good enough for causal conversation. But while it might be reasonable for a Chinese language school to have such a policy, I think it is quite a different matter for a New York cosmetics store to tell their Spanish speaking employees that they can’t speak Spanish during their lunch break.
In my neighborhood everyone first addresses me in Spanish, then English. Even at the Korean run grocery store with the wide selection of Polish delicacies. I love New York! Here is a PDF file showing languages spoken in New York according to the 2000 census (which I’m sure underreports languages spoken by immigrants).
UPDATE: I was looking around and I found this chart (PDF file) which shows: “Language Other Than English Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over”
This unique file was created by the U.S. Census Bureau at the request of NYC Department of City Planning to meet the need for information on the English language proficiency of specific language groups. (The standard Census Bureau files provide census tract data on English language proficiency for four broad language groups only.)
Who are the 33,066 Yiddish speakers in NY — especially the 1,053 who don’t speak any English? I guess I’d like to see this broken down by age…