DR. WALLACE: I just returned home from Santa Barbara, California. Five of us spent a fun week there escaping the terrible recent weather in Madison, Wisconsin. We're sophomores at the University of Wisconsin.
This was our first time in California, and we were surprised at the number of people who spoke Spanish there. Some of the stores even had advertising in both English and Spanish. How many Spanish-speaking people live in the U.S.? — Tamika, Madison, Wisconsin
TAMIKA: In the United States, there are more than 350 different languages spoken at home, and Spanish ranks No. 1 as the most commonly spoken non-English language in our country. Following Spanish, the primary languages spoken in the U.S. (in order) are Chinese, French and Tagalog.
According to 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, over 37 million people over the age of 5 spoke Spanish at home, which makes it the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S. by far. After Mexico, the United States actually has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world.
The U.S. is unique and strong precisely because of its diversity: We're a mixture of people from every corner of this planet. Most immigrants do not speak English in their native country but do learn to speak it once in America. A significant portion of America's population is bilingual.
"In the 1600s and 1700s, Spanish explorations and settlements extended the Spanish language north from Mexico into present-day Arizona, California, southern Colorado, New Mexico and Texas," according to the Accredited Language Services website.
NOW I'M REALLY UPSET
DR. WALLACE: Besides me, the only person who knows my locker combination is my best friend. About a month ago, I had a sweater taken from out of my locker. I asked my friend if she had seen it, but she said no. That made me think the sweater was still in my house, so for a while, I forgot that it was missing.
Last Friday, I put $11 in my locker and forgot to take the money home. When I opened my locker Monday morning, the money was gone. I didn't tell my friend about the missing money, but I did talk my way into her house and her room. When she left to answer the telephone, I opened her closet door and — ta-da! — I saw my sweater! I closed the door before she returned, and then I made an excuse to leave.
Now I'm really upset. I know my friend swiped my sweater, and I'm almost sure she was also the one who stole my $11. I talked to my counselor. He gave me a different locker, and no one is going to get the combination. But what should I do about my "best friend"?
First of all, I am no longer going to be her friend. I won't do anything with her anymore. If she asks me why, what should I say? I want to tell her that I saw my sweater in her closet, but that would show her that I'm a snoop — which some people think isn't much better than a thief. Help! — Betrayed in Birmingham, Alabama
BETRAYED IN BIRMINGHAM: Peeking into your friend's closet was bold but not dishonest. You had grounds to be suspicious, and fortunately for your peace of mind, your suspicions were confirmed. Rather than silently end your friendship, you should tell her that you know she has her sweater. Acknowledge that you saw it in her closet and ask her politely to return it.
If she doesn't, don't force the issue. If she returns the sweater, only then ask her about the "lost" money. A call from your mother to her mother might help to get your stolen items returned.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.