Language can be a hot topic in the Arizona desert, fueled largely by the controversial immigration debate that flares up on a regular basis in this border state. Nearly 75 percent of Arizonans speak only English at home, and the Modern Language Association estimates more than 20 percent speak Spanish. In addition to the occasional voter initiative to make English the state’s official language, politicians have made efforts to revamp the public school system’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program, which often faces opposition and produces mixed results. A recent Supreme Court case even debated if the state was spending enough to aid children who are learning to speak English, though it was kicked back down to a lower court.
Travelers will hear Spanish spoken throughout the state, particularly in Phoenix , where Spanish-language media, even billboards, are fairly commonplace. Native American languages may be heard on Indian lands, though almost all Native Americans in urban areas speak English.