As the country finishes its Independence Day celebrations, we're celebrating in our own unique way: by showcasing the many languages of the United States of America! Did you know that well over 350 languages are spoken in the USA? Although English and Spanish are the most commonly spoken languages here, the United States has no official language. The diverse array of languages spoken from coast to coast enhance the rich tapestry of cultures and communities that make up our country.
We used data from the Migration Policy Institute to explore the most commonly spoken languages in each American state. Can you guess what the most popular language in your state is?
Taken at face value, you might not think of Alabama as a multilingual state. About 94.5% of Alabamans only speak English at home. Of the remaining 5.5%, about 3% speak Spanish at home. But that remaining 2% is surprisingly diverse in languages spoken at home— you'll meet speakers of over 40 languages all over Alabama! Besides English and Spanish, the most spoken language is Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), spoken by about 10,767 Alabamans.
Alaska is another story! It is the only state in the country in which native Alaskan languages like Aleut, Yupik, and Inuit are among the most spoken languages. 16% of Alaskans speak a language other than English at home with about 28,000 people speaking local indigenous languages. By contrast, about 25,099 Alaskans speak Spanish, making Alaska one of the few states in which Spanish isn't the second highest-ranking groups of languages. There are over 20 different recognized native Alaskan languages!
Over 27% of people in Arizona speak another language besides English! Spanish is by far the most spoken language besides English with almost 1.4 million speakers. But the third most common language is Navajo, with over 80,000 speakers. The Navajo Nation covers about 27,000 acres in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, comprising a chunk of land bigger than 10 of the American states. Arizona has the largest Navajo population of any state!
While most Arkansans aren't multilingual, with only about 7.5% speaking another language besides English, they're home to one of the most unique language communities in the country. Despite being a landlocked state, Arkansas is one of the only states in which Austronesian languages (spoken in the Pacific Islands) fall in the top 3. Springdale, Arkansas is home to America's largest community of Marshallese nationals in the USA! Over 6,000 people speak Marshallese at home in Arkansas.
California holds the special distinction of having more multilingual citizens than any other state in the country! 44.5% of Californians speak another language besides English at home. Of those, about two-thirds speak Spanish. California boasts over 10 million Spanish speakers, larger than the population of most of the American states! California also has over 1.3 million speakers of Chinese and over 800,000 speakers of Tagalog. Ever since the 1850's, many people have emigrated from Asian countries to the USA through California.
It's probably no surprise that many people speak Spanish in Colorado. After all, its name means 'colored red' in Spanish. Of the 16.7% of Coloradans who speak more than one language at home, over two-thirds speak Spanish. But beyond that, Colorado is also home to over 24,000 Chinese speakers and 22,560 German speakers. About 20% of Coloradans are of German ancestry today. When the state was first established, the language was so commonly spoken that the state Constitution was published in both English and German.
Over 22% of people in Connecticut speak more than one language at home! While about half of those speak Spanish, an unexpected language comes in third place. Almost 39,000 people speak Portuguese! The first large wave of Portuguese immigrants arrived in New England to work in the whaling and textile industries in the mid-to-late 19th century. Later, more Portuguese immigrants arrived in the 1950s and 1960s after a volcanic eruption destroyed many homes in Portugal or in political opposition to Fascist leader António de Oliveira Salazar.
Delaware may be a small state, but it's home to many languages. Over 17% of people speak another language besides English at home in Delaware. Some of the most common include Chinese (around 8,300 speakers), Hindi (around 3,600 speakers), and Gujarati (around 3,200 speakers). Between 11 and 14% of immigrants to Delaware hail from India, and speakers of several different Indian languages call Delaware home. The Hindu Temple in Hockessen, Delaware is a striking local landmark!
Florida is one of the most multilingual states in the USA, with over 30% of Floridians speaking another language besides English at home. You probably guessed that the second-most-popular language is Spanish (Florida is home to over 4.5 million Spanish speakers), but can you guess which language comes in third? It's Haitian, also known as Haitian Creole or French Creole! This language includes influences of West African languages, Spanish, Portuguese, Taino, and English languages as well as French. Over 474,200 Floridians speak Haitian!
While only about 14% of Georgians speak a language other than English at home, you'll meet a wide variety of speakers of different languages in Georgia. While over half of Georgians speak Spanish, you'll also meet over 64,000 Vietnamese speakers, 52,000 Chinese speakers, and 42,000 Korean speakers! These are some of the fastest-growing languages in Georgia, too. The northeast suburbs of Atlanta are home to thriving Asian-American communities, and Buford Highway is famous for its many world-class Asian restaurants!
Hawaii is the only state other than Arkansas to rank Ilocano, Samoan, Hawaiian, or Other Austronesian Languages near the top of its list of most spoken languages. It's also one of the only states not to include Spanish in its top 3 most popular languages! Over 26% of Hawaiians speak another language than English at home. About 37% of these speak Austronesian languages! The Native Hawaiian language itself is considered endangered by UNESCO and Hawaii has made great efforts to promote the language in recent decades. Other popularly spoken languages in Hawaii include Tagalog (57,000 speakers) and Japanese (41,600 speakers)!
Idaho isn't known for being particularly multilingual, with only about 11% of residents speaking a language besides English at home. Still, the census reports over 90 languages spoken within the state, including several indigenous languages! There are only 2 remaining people who speak Coeur d'Alene as a first language, though many younger people are dedicated to learning and preserving the language. Other than Spanish, some of the most popular languages in Idaho include Chinese (almost 5,000 speakers) and Arabic (over 3,800 speakers).
Illinois is home to the massive metropolis of Chicago, so it's no wonder that over 23% of residents speak a language besides English at home. Over 57% of these speak Spanish– over 1.6 million Spanish speakers live in Illinois– but its third most popular language maybe a little more surprising. It's Polish! More than 162,000 people speak the language in Illinois. For people in the Chicago area "Paczi Day," otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, is a great excuse to stock up on delicious Polish doughnuts– whether you speak Polish or not!
Under 9% of people speak a language other than English in Indiana, and over half of those speak Spanish. The state does have a notable percentage of citizens of German heritage. Some of these speak German (roughly 38,500) but slightly more speak the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect (around 38,800). This language is especially common among Amish and Mennonite people. Interestingly, Pennsylvania Dutch is not one of the the three most spoken languages in Pennsylvania!
Iowa has a lot in common with Indiana– besides growing a lot of corn. Less than 9% of Iowans speak another language than English. Many Iowans (slightly under a third) can trace their ancestry to Germany, and there are still about 12,700 people in the state who speak German today. Iowa is home to seven villages called the Amana Colonies, established as religious settlements by German immigrants. Today, they're a tourist attraction known for selling crafts and hosting several quaint bed and breakfasts.
About 12% of Kansans speak a second language at home, but the state isn't really known for having enclaves of different languages. About two-third of people who speak another language at home speak Spanish. The rest are divided up into a variety of languages, including Chinese (13,800), German (12,300), and Vietnamese (11,000). Every year, Kansas hosts an Asian Cultural Festival in Overland Park and the Wichita Asian Festival in Wichita.
If you want to hold a bilingual conversation, Kentucky may not be the ideal spot for you. Only about 6% of residents speak another language besides English. A little under half of these speak Spanish. Other popular languages include German (around 13,300 people) and Arabic (around 10,700 people). Louisville has a 'sister city' relationship with the German city of Mainz, the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, and about a third of the city's population has German heritage.
Louisiana is famous as a place where many different cultures come together, so it may come as a surprise that only 7.8% of Louisianans speak a language other than English at home. By far the most commonly spoken (besides Spanish) is French, with over 72,567 speakers. The term 'French' here is really an umbrella for a variety of different dialects, including Cajun French and Louisiana Creole French. Cajun French grew from French Canadian dialects in the 17th century, but it evolved very differently from the French that Canadians speak today and has picked up some influences from other languages spoken locally. Louisiana Creole developed from a combination of French, African languages, and some Spanish. Louisiana French dialects are some of the most unique in the country!
Maine is another state that's popular for French speakers! Only about 6% of people speak another language at home in Maine, but nearly half of them speak French! Almost 35,000 people speak the language, more than speak Spanish. Maine is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Quebec, and many French Canadians traveled to Maine to work in the mills during the industrial era. Over 23% of Mainers are of French ancestry!
Maryland is a small but diverse state in which 19.4% of the population speaks a second language besides English at home! A little under half of these speak Spanish (Maryland has a large Salvadoran community), but the rest speak a wide variety of languages. Over 70,000 people in Maryland speak Chinese at home. Maryland also boasts over 51,000 speakers of Yoruba, Twi, Igbo, or other West African languages. The Maryland suburbs outside Washington, DC and Baltimore are home to vibrant communities of West African immigrants.
Almost a quarter of people speak more than one language at home in Massachusetts– 24.7%, to be exact! After Spanish, the most popular language by far is Portuguese, with over 206,000 speakers! Massachusetts is home to the largest Portuguese-speaking population in the USA. For well over a century, New Bedford has hosted the world's largest Portuguese cultural festival, a huge four-day event called The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament! With parades, performing arts, amusement park rides, and, of course, lots of feasting, it's a major to-do!
An even 10% of Michiganders speak another language at home! Only about 28% of them speak Spanish, the rest representing a wide range of languages. After Spanish, the most commonly spoken language is Arabic! Over 164,800 people speak the language. Dearborn, Michigan is home to the country's largest population of Lebanese-Americans! Many people emigrated from Lebanon to Michigan to work in the auto industry in the early 20th century. The city of Dearborn is also home to the Arab-American National Museum!
About 12% of Minnesotans speak more than one language! You might think its proximity to Canada might mean a lot of French speakers, but its most popular languages originate from a lot further away. Over 89,000 people speak Somali in Minnesota! The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area is home to the biggest Somali-American population in the country. The first Somali-American person elected to Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar, also hails from Minnesota! Minnesota is also home to over 73,600 speakers of the Hmong language.
Mississippi is one of the least multilingual countries in the USA, with only 4% of residents speaking another language besides English at home. About 60% of those who do speak Spanish. After Spanish, the most popular language in Mississippi is Vietnamese, with almost 6,600 speakers. Many Vietnamese immigrants had a background in fishing and found work in the seafood industry on the Gulf Coast. The city of Biloxi holds annual celebrations for Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year!
Only about 6% of people in Missouri speak a language besides English at home. But way back in 1860, St. Louis, Missouri held the title of "Most Foreign-Born City in the USA." By the turn of the 20th century, immigrants from Ireland, Germany, the former Ottoman Empire, and many more countries all found a home in St. Louis and brought diverse languages to the city's streets. Today, the most spoken language in Missouri besides Spanish is Chinese! 25,725 Missourians speak the language. Every year, Chinese Culture Days are held at the Missouri Botanic Gardens!
Not many people in Montana speak more than one language at home. Only about 4.2% of residents speak a language besides English. Montana holds a distinction, however, for being one of the only states to rank Native American languages in its top 3 most spoken languages, most notably the Crow and Cheyenne languages. Combined, over 7,100 Montanans speak the native languages of North America. Montana is home to the USA's highest percentage of speakers of five indigenous languages: Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Salish, and Cree.
About 14% of Nebraskans speak a language besides English at home! By far the most commonly spoken language after Spanish is Vietnamese, with over 9,600 speakers. The city of Lincoln, Nebraska is home to a burgeoning Vietnamese community since welcoming about 5,000 Vietnamese refugees into the city in the 1980's. Other popular languages include Arabic (around 6,465 speakers) and Amharic and Somali (around 7,300 speakers total).
A whopping 31% of Nevadans speak a language other than English at home! Nevada is the only state in the union to claim Tagalog as its most spoken language besides English and Spanish, even though Tagalog is the third most-spoken language in the USA. The state is home to 84,500 speakers of the language, and Filipinos make up the largest Asian-American ethnic group in Nevada. Tagalog was added to ballots in Nevada for the first time in 2020!
Another New England state close to Quebec, it makes sense that French is one of the most-spoken languages in New Hampshire! 8% of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and about 2% total speak French. Mill towns like Berlin, New Hampshire became home to many French-Canadian workers during the industrial revolution. Berlin is still one of the largest French-speaking communities in the USA– and it's developed its own local dialect.
With over 31% of residents speaking another language besides English at home, New Jersey is one of the most multilingual and multicultural states. After Spanish, the most spoken language is Chinese, with well over 120,000 speakers! New York City and its New Jersey suburbs comprise the metropolitan area with the most Chinese speakers in the country. New Jersey also has over 85,000 Hindi speakers and nearly 82,000 Gujarati speakers! New Jersey boasts the highest proportional Indian-American population of any other state– around 4%.
Over 1/3 of New Mexico's population speaks a language other than English at home– an impressive 34%! Unsurprisingly, the vast majority speak Spanish, or 524,990 of the state's 672,260 multilingual residents, to be precise. New Mexico has its own unique dialect, tracing back to Spanish settlers who arrived before New Mexico became part of the USA. After Spanish, the most popular language is Navajo, with about 96,000 speakers! The Navajo Nation takes up a significant part of northwestern New Mexico.
New York is a world-famous melting pot of cultures, languages, and traditions! Fittingly, around 31% of the population speaks more than one language at home. Its most popular language after Spanish is Chinese, spoken by a staggering 597,300 New Yorkers! Chinatown in New York City is the biggest Chinese-American enclave in the USA and is a must-see tourist destination for its food, shopping, and history. Don't miss the Museum of Chinese in America! New York is also home to the largest population of Yiddish speakers in the USA with nearly 200,000 speakers, as well as over 225,000 Russian speakers!
A little over 12% of people in North Carolina speak a language besides English at home. Besides English and Spanish, the most spoken language there is Chinese, with over 38,300 speakers. The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary, NC received over 200,000 visitors this year! North Carolina also has a sizeable French-speaking population, at around 30,000. Like many Southern states, several towns and cities in North Carolina have French-derived names, most notably Fayetteville, the first place to be named after the Marquis de Lafayette!
Only about 6% of North Dakotans speak another language at home. After Spanish, the most popular language in North Dakota is German, spoken by 5,600 people. Over 30% of people in North Dakota have German ancestry– but many of their ancestors didn't move to the USA directly from Germany. Thousands of "Volga Germans" moved from Russia to the region in the 19th century. North Dakota's landscape may have seemed familiar to people arriving from Russia! The city of Bismarck, North Dakota is even named after Otto von Bismarck.
Around 7.5% of Ohioans speak a language other than English at home, but many of those that do speak one of the nation's rarest languages: Pennsylvania Dutch! With over 62,700 speakers, Ohio is second only to Pennsylvania itself in number of speakers of the unique dialect. Holmes County in Ohio has the highest concentration of Amish people of any county in the world! Pennsylvania Dutch is not Dutch at all, but a dialect derived from German, or "Deutsch."
In Oklahoma, about 10% of the population speaks a language besides English at home. After Spanish, the most common is Vietnamese, spoken by over 21,500 people. In Oklahoma City's bustling "Asian District," over half of the businesses are owned by Vietnamese or Vietnamese-Chinese families. Over 12,200 people also speak "Native Languages of North America," most notably Cherokee and Choctaw. 25 indigenous languages are spoken in Oklahoma, second only to California in number!
15.5% of people in Oregon speak another language other than English at home. The Jade District in Portland is one of the state's most diverse and multilingual areas, home to speakers of several of the most popular languages in the state: Chinese (around 33,600 speakers), Vietnamese (around 27,600 speakers), and Russian (around 20,800 speakers). Portland Public Schools even include Chinese, Vietnamese, and Russian language immersion programs for elementary schoolers, as well as Spanish and Japanese.
We mentioned earlier that Pennsylvania Dutch, which originated in Pennsylvania, isn't one of the state's top 3 languages. The state's Pennsylvania Dutch community is still the largest in the country (73,500 speakers), but Pennsylvania is home to many other language communities, too! Around 11.7% of Pennsylvanians speak another language besides English at home. After English and Spanish, the most spoken language is Chinese, with 90,890 speakers.
Rhode Island might be tiny, but proportionally speaking, it has an impressive number of people who speak more than one language at home at 22%. After Spanish, the state's most popular language is Portuguese, spoken by over 29,200 people. People of Portuguese ancestry make up about 10% of Rhode Island's population, the highest percentage of any state in the country! Every year, Providence hosts the Rhode Island Day of Portugal Festival.
Only about 7.5% of people in South Carolina speak a language other than English at home. Almost 2/3 of those who do speak Spanish. The next most common is German, with over 13,000 speakers. The first German immigrants arrived in South Carolina in the 1670's, and by the middle of the 19th century, Charleston was home to a large German community with its own German-language newspaper. You can still see a small German influence in the uniquely mustard-based Carolina barbeque sauce.
A mere 6.4% of South Dakotans speak more than one language at home. The most spoken, other than Spanish, falls under the category of Native Languages of Northern America. The official indigenous languages of South Dakota are the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota dialects spoken by the Sioux people in the state. In fact, South Dakota was the first state in the contiguous USA to declare an official indigenous language.
Only about 7.6% of people in Tennessee speak a language besides English at home. Almost 60% of these speak Spanish. After Spanish, the next most popular is Arabic, spoken by almost 25,800 people. The largest community of Kurdish people in the USA is located in Southern Nashville. Kurdish immigrants from Iraq, Iran, and Syria have moved to the area, called Little Kurdistan, since the 1970's. The Salahadeen Center in the area was the first Kurdish mosque/ community center built in the USA!
In Texas, an impressive 35.6% of the population speaks a language other than English at home. The vast majority, almost 82%, speak Spanish. Before becoming part of the USA in 1845, Texas was an independent state, and before that, it was part of Mexico. Many Tejano families (Mexican-American people from Texas) can trace their ancestry back to generations before Texas was annexed by the USA. The next most popular language is Vietnamese, spoken by 226,370 people! The Houston area is a vibrant hub for Vietnamese-American communities.
Similar to neighboring Colorado, 16% of people speak another language at home in Utah, over 2/3 of them Spanish speakers. The most common after that is Chinese, spoken by 16,4oo people. In the mid to late 19th century, many Chinese immigrants arrived in Utah as workers on the transcontinental railroad. The Central Pacific Railroad stretched from California to Promontory, Utah, and its workforce was over 90% Chinese. After the railroad construction, many stayed on to work on the railroad, in the mines, or opening local businesses in Utah!
Only 5.8% of Vermonters speak a language at home other than English. Of those who do, the most popular, even more so than Spanish, is French, spoken by 8,385 people. The name of the state actually derives from the French language– vert meaning "green" and mont meaning "mountain!" Vermont shares a 90-mile border with French-speaking Quebec. You'll find many sites in Vermont named after French colonist Samuel de Champlain, best known for founding Quebec and being the first European to describe the Great Lakes.
Almost 17% of Virginians speak a language besides English at home. After Spanish, the most commonly spoken is Chinese, with over 66,000 speakers. Virginia's largest Chinese-American community is located in the suburbs of Washington, DC in the northern part of the state. Virginia is also home to 48,300 Korean speakers and 57,496 Vietnamese speakers. Northern Virginia is home to the Eden Center, the largest Asian-American themed mall on the East Coast.
In Washington state, 20.5% of people speak more than one language at home! Over 127,600 people in the state speak Chinese. Seattle has been home to a Chinese-American community ever since its earliest days in the 1850s. Many arrived from the Guangzhou area to work on railroads, or in the logging, milling, and canning industries. In Seattle's Chinatown, guests can visit the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, also known as the Wing, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum of Asian-American history and culture.
West Virginia sits at the very bottom of the list of most multilingual states, with only 2.6% of the population speaking a language besides English at home. The most spoken language after Spanish is Chinese, though only around 2,800 people speak it. About 18,200 people in the state speak Spanish. Mexico and China are the two countries from which people are most likely to emigrate to West Virginia.
About 8.7% of Wisconsinites speak one or more languages other than English at home. They also hold the distinction of being the only state in which Hmong is the most common language after Spanish. Nearly 39,000 people in Wisconsin speak the language. Beginning in the 1970's, Hmong people sought asylum in the USA after the Vietnam War due to many of them aiding American troops in Laos. The Hmong Wasau Festival is the largest Hmong event in Wisconsin and features demonstrations of the sports, music, and arts of the Hmong community.
About 7% of people in Wyoming speak a language besides English at home, over half of them speaking Spanish. After that, the most common group of languages is Native Languages of North America. The Shoshone and Arapaho languages are both spoken in Wyoming today. Wyoming is home to about 2,000 Shoshone speakers and roughly 250 fluent Arapaho speakers. Although Arapaho is considered an endangered language, current efforts are underway to establish a dual language/immersion program at St. Stephens Indian School to teach the Arapaho language to new generations of students.
Were you surprised by any of these languages? Did you learn anything new about your own home state? Or did this information inspire you to get started on your own language learning journey? It's never too late to start learning a new language with us at Cricket!