Currently, Spanish is the main official language of Puerto Rico:

  • P. Rico Senate declares Spanish over English as first official language
    The Puerto Rican Senate approved a bill Thursday declaring Spanish as the first official language of the country, relegating English to second position.
    Thursday's bill proposes to establish Spanish as the first official language making its use compulsory in executive, legislative and judicial matters, and thus repeal Law 1-1993 which put both languages on an equal footing.

  • Also, Languages section on Wikipedia says:

    The official languages of the executive branch of government of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language.
    Spanish is, and has been, the only official language of the entire Commonwealth judiciary system, despite a 1902 English-only language law.

If Puerto Rico votes to become USA's 51st state, what effect (if any) would it have on Spanish being the primary official language?

  • 1
    Obviously, i'm seeking answers based on actual laws in USA, not just unsupported opinions.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 3:28
  • 5
    Well I've always heard that federal law is completely silent on that question, in which case statehood would have no effect, but I don't have time to read the entire US code to confirm it.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


There is no official language in the US and the fact that Puerto Rico's official language is Spanish will not have any bearing on its becoming the US state in the future. Whether to designate a certain language as an official language is not a federal issue, but a state issue. According to the Wikipedia article on Languages of the United States

The United States does not have a national official language; nevertheless, English (specifically American English) is the primary language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements; although there are laws requiring documents such as ballots to be printed in multiple languages when there are large numbers of non-English speakers in an area.


The state of Alaska provides voting information in Iñupiaq, Central Yup'ik, Gwich'in, Siberian Yupik, Koyukon, and Tagalog, as well as English. Alaska recognizes many Native languages as official.

The official language of Quebec, the second largest province in Canada, is French and it doesn't affect its province status at all.

The Official Language Act of 1974 (French Loi sur la langue officielle), also known as Bill 22, was an act of the National Assembly of Quebec, commissioned by Premier Robert Bourassa, which made French the sole official language of Quebec, Canada.

(emphasis mine)

  • 7
    Do note that Canada is not part of the United States. And Canada is not expected to grant statehood (or province-hood) to Puerto Rico.
    – user9389
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 2:39
  • 4
    I would say exactly that. They way one county treats languages has very little to do with how other countries will. Unless there is some specific reason to expect the US will cite Canadian law in dealing with its states, mentioning Canada only adds potential for confusion.
    – user9389
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 3:18
  • 11
    I think your Alaska example is the best possible. I think mentioning Canada is about as relevant as China or Russia and may possibly confuse people (Americans) who think Canada is part of the US.
    – user9389
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 6:56
  • 2
    Also, isn't Hawaiian an official language of Hawaii, alongside English? Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 13:01
  • Can you add citations to support your claim "the fact that Puerto Rico's official language is Spanish will not have any bearing on its becoming the US state in the future" It seems in general wrong (since there will obviously be enormous political opposition from many existing states) and only true in the narrowest legalistic sense that Spanish doesn't outright disqualify PR. However the reality is that Congress has no obligation to admit a new state, so what would be in it for existing primarily-English-speaking Republican states to dilute their power? or go bilingual?
    – smci
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 23:27

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