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The various languages of Kern County

The various languages of Kern County
Posted at 6:19 PM, Nov 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-08 21:19:56-05
  • According to census data from 2017 to 2021, over 44% of the nearly 275,000 housholds in Kern County speak a language other than English. Languages like Spanish, Punjabi and American Sign Language.
  • 23ABC spoke with Lil Stern, a Kern County Library employee who runs a weekly ASL workshop at the Buttonwillow branch on Tuesdays and Tim Brandon, a court interpreter for Spanish speakers here in Kern County. Both learned their second language for personal reasons, but agree that it's important to at least be around a second language to gain a better insight to the community they live in.
  • Stern noted that the workshop they hold on Tuesday's aren't a class, but rather an opportunity to practice signing if they are learning the language elsewhere or if they would like to pick up a few things.


Do you speak a different language at home? I’m Sam Hoyle your neighborhood reporter, here in Buttonwillow.

According to Census data. from 2017-2021 over 44% of households in Kern County speak a language other than English. Spanish is the the bulk of that language being spoken, but there are plenty of other languages spoken all across Kern County. There’s Punjabi, Tagalog, and American Sign language to name a few..

Every Tuesday at the Buttonwillow library, there’s an American Sign Language workshop where community members can come and learn a little bit more about the language.

Lil Stern works for the library and leads the workshop weekly. They learned to sign because some days they have trouble speaking, but they now share some of their knowledge in an effort to expose community members to a new method of communication.

“It's important for people to see others communicating in lots of different ways," said Stern through sign. "I really want to support all modalities of communication here.”

Stern said the workshop is less of a class and more of an opportunity for people who are learning sign elsewhere to come practice or to just be exposed to the language and the culture.

But what about some of the other languages spoken in Kern county?

“Freshman year of high school, there was a really cute Spanish foreign exchange student named Viviana, if I'm honest, that was the reason.”

That’s Tim Brandon, a court interpreter for Spanish speakers here in Kern county and while he credits that experience in his youth for wanting to learn Spanish, his thoughts on speaking a language aside from your native one are a bit more serious.

“Language is the is the way that we express our thoughts and emotions, all of us. And so if we share a common language, we're able to share that thing that is the most important part of ourselves," said Brandon.

Now if you are interested in learning a new language like ASL, Stern said in their mind the best way to learn is from someone ingrained in the culture that surrounds the language like an American Sign Language teacher who is deaf.

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