I stumbled on the National Library of Australia’s excellent digital collection this morning, and searching for polyglot-related materials, came across this appraisal from the Brisbane Courier from 1929:
It will take a long while for America to settle down solely to the use of the English tongue. This comes home to one when it is learnt that in the United States there are nearly 500 newspapers printed in foreign languages. Out of the 67 newspapers issued in Chicago, seven only are in English; out of the 61 in New York, 22 only are in English.
Always interesting to get a view of America from somewhere else. From the Australian perspective, the US was far from honoring its British roots; perhaps the subtext is a competition over cultural and racial purity? But there’s also a fascination with the urban and the multilingualism that results. This from the Burra Record in 1914:
There is no city that produces newspapers, in so many different languages as New York…in addition to 39 daily papers that are published in English, there are 10 Italian papers, 7 German, 7 Jewish, 3 Greek, 3 Hungarian, 2 French, 2 Bohemian, 2 Croatian, and 1 Spanish, Serbian, and Syrian. In addition there are a great number of foreign weekly papers…It would be interesting to know whether any other city has quite so many languages…