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Asian languages spoken widely in 18 states

New York Time Square
A multitude of languages can be heard walkng the streets of New York

Views from the Edge

I love walking the streets of New York City and San Francisco. I could sit in one spot and the world would pass by — tourists and residents speaking a cacophony of foreign languages.

Nothing emphasizes the US’s immigrant heritage than the ton of languages people speak at home. English and Spanish, of course, are the two main languages spoken across the country. But the third most spoken language in each state, may be surprising to you.

Waiting at a crosswalk in San Francisco, one can imagine being in Manila with all the Tagalog being spoken. In California, where I’m based, the Filipino dialect Tagalog is the most frequently spoken language after English and Spanish. 

The US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey annually asks more than 1 million Americans questions about their lives, families, and backgrounds. One question asks respondents what language they mainly speak in their homes.

Using individual-level responses from the 2017 American Community Survey assembled and published by the Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program, Business Insider found the most common language spoken at home in each state, excluding English and Spanish.

In neighboring Nevada, Tagalog is also the most spoken language at home. That wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve wandered through the tourist attractions and The Strip and you saw the number of Filipino employees employed by the casinos. Filipinos are the largest Asian American ethnic group in Las Vegas.

Nationally, the estimated number of Tagalog speakers is 1,753,712, according to the Census Bureau.

Another Filipino dialect, Ilocano, is the major language in Hawaii. During the heyday of sugarcane and pineapples, huge number of Filipinos from the Ilocos region, north of Manila were brought in by the plantation owners to join the Japanese and Chinese workers who were already in the fields. Today, 85% of the Filipino population in Hawaii is Ilocano and with the Tagalog speakers, Filipino Americans make up the largest Asian ethnic group in the state.

Other Asian languages that are spoken widely are:

  • Not surprisingly, Chinese is the language from Asia that has the most speakers. The largest Asian ethnic group, which includes Taiwanese, number over 5 million, of which 2,155,939, speak one of the Chinese languages. The states where they are the most commonly spoken language at home other than English and Spanish are New York, Washington, Arkansas, Missouri, Utah.
  • Korean-Americans are the fifth-largest Asian immigrant group in the US and have 1,104,145 Americans speak Korean at home. They are almost entirely from South Korea, The states where Korean is the most commonly spoken language at home other than English and Spanish are Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.
  • Gujarati is the most common Indian language in New Jersey. Its speakers originally came from the western Indian state of Gujarat. In the US, there are 419,964 Gujarati speakers.
  • Vietnamese is the most commonly spoken language at home other than English and Spanish in Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kansas, Iowa and Mississippi thanks to over 1.5 million Vietnamese speakers. Over half of all Vietnamese-Americans live in either California or Texas.
  • Although many Nepalese people have settled in Nebraska, where Nepalese is the language spoken at home for relative to other immigrant communities, the actual number is unclear. The biggest single Nepalese group is in New York City, with 9,000 people. Nationwide, there are 202,218 Nepalese speakers.

German is the most commonly spoken non-English, non-Spanish language in nine states, with French most common in six states and D.C.

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