America as a multilingual nation

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"This map shows the most commonly spoken language in every US state, excluding English and Spanish", by Andy Kiersz and Ivan De Luce, Business Insider (1/18/20):

(NOTE:  I will refer to languages other than English and Spanish as non-ES [NES], languages.)

A number of things about this map surprise me.  First of all is the way several languages cluster in propinquitous states.  For example, Vietnamese is stacked up in the middle of the map in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, with Iowa and Mississippi nearby and Oregon as an outlier.

German is extensively distributed in two internal clusters, with a Rocky Mountain group of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado, and a Midwestern group of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky having South Carolina nearby.

It is not surprising that Tagalog is the number one NES language spoken in California and Nevada, and I know from personal observation that it is widely spoken in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, as well as in the Canadian province of British Columbia.  But why have the Koreans chosen the three Southeastern states of Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia?

In contrast, "Chinese" is scattered in New York, Washington, Utah (huh?), and Arkansas (huh?), but anchored in the center of the nation at Missouri.  But what is "Chinese"?  It is most certainly not a single language, but a group / family of languages (Sinitic), and I would dare say that most speakers of Sinitic in America do not speak the official PRC language of Mandarin, but rather Cantonese, Taiwanese, Fuzhouese, Wenzhouese, Shanghainese, and so forth.

Arabic has long, well-established communities in the three Midwestern states of West Virginia, Tennessee, and Michigan, surrounding NES German-speaking Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

It makes sense to me that French would be the first NES language in Louisiana, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, but I'm not so sure about the reason for its being so in Maryland and North Carolina.

Ditto for Haitian Creole in Florida (but why also Delaware?).

Ditto for Portuguese in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (deep roots as fishing settlers).

I've long known about the large Hmong population in Wisconsin (product of the Vietnam War), but why did they choose that particular state?  And what brought so many Somalis to Minnesota, mostly in Minneapolis and post-1990s?

The locations of virtually every NES language in the United States give food for thought:

Nepali (a very important language in my own life) in Nebraska

Pennsylvania Dutch in Pennsylvania (my adopted state)

Polish in Illinois

Gujarati in New Jersey (all those gas stations, Dunkin Donuts cum Baskin-Robbins shops, convenience stores, and mom-and-pop motels)

Navajo in New Mexico and Arizona; Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, and Sioux in South Dakota

llocano in Hawaii

Aleut-Eskimo in Alaska

Euskara didn't make the map, but there are many individuals having Basque heritage in America, concentrated in the Rocky Mountain states.  Can you guess why?

Pondering the distribution of NES languages in the USA is a good way to grasp some important truths about the history and sociology of our country.

Readings

[h.t. Charles Belov]



54 Comments

  1. stephen.reeves said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 12:59 pm

    I know it's not the US but i am hearing a lot more Mandarin now in Toronto ,interesting to see the same map for Canada

  2. Matt said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:03 pm

    It is interesting to see Pennsylvania Dutch (a low German dialect) in Pennsylvania but German in Indiana and Ohio. My (non expert) guess is that these are all due to the same group of speakers (the Amish). This is also possible in some of the other German areas, but I have less direct knowledge there. Growing up in Indiana, people I knew generally called the language spoken there by the Amish Pennsylvania Dutch.

  3. John Baker said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:16 pm

    It's a fascinating map. I would not have guessed that Ilocano is the top NES language in Hawaii (even more prominent than Hawaiian?) or that Gujarati leads in New Jersey. I'm originally from Kentucky and have lived in Massachusetts, but I might not have guessed that German leads in Kentucky or Portuguese in Massachusetts, although both make sense on consideration. In Kentucky's case, proximity to Cincinnati, which has many German speakers, is probably a factor. German is not very common in Kentucky once you get away from the northern edge of the state. I certainly would not have guessed French to be so common in Maryland, where I live now.

    The map seems to play pretty fast and loose in distinguishing between languages and language families. Alaskan/Aleut, for example, is not just one family.

    I assume that Spanish is the number two language in the majority of states, but I would be interested in seeing the states where this is not the case.

  4. greg said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:23 pm

    Korean in Virginia is probably largely due to the significant concentration of Korean immigrants in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. In parts of the county, you'll find many businesses with bilingual signs. In the 2010 census, the county accounted for over 60% of the state's Korean immigrant population, with a population of more than 40,000. Which also helps put a scale to the size of the population for some of these third most-spoken languages, with something around the order of 100,000 Korean speakers in Virginia, which has a total population of 8.5 million people.

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:25 pm

    When I tried to find the underlying ACS data for Delaware (my native state), it seemed to have Haitian Creole in 4th place at around 6,000 speakers statewide, behind "Chinese" (lumping together Mandarin/Cantonese/Taiwanese/etc/etc) at around 7,000 — both below 1% of a statewide population just over 900,000. But maybe the map was made from a different iteration of the census data and all the estimates come with a stated plus-or-minus margin of error with the Haitian and Chinese estimates both within each other's margin of error.

    Here's a story from almost a decade ago about the growth of Del.'s Haitian immigrant community way downstate in Sussex County.
    https://repeatingislands.com/2011/08/21/building-a-new-paradise-far-from-the-caribbean/

  6. Thomas Hutcheson said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:25 pm

    Interesting map. I'm surprised that only one state has an Indian language as first after English/Spanish. That means we have not been as successful attracting Indian/Pakistani speaking immigrants as we have Chinese (unless it's that the one we do attract come already with much more English, which is possible from India).

  7. cameron said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:28 pm

    I live on the Lower East side of Manhattan. My understanding is that the old school NY Chinatown community speak Cantonese exclusively, but the newer immigrants that have been flooding in over the past few decades speak all the other languages that you mention. On the streets, however, the new immigrants all use Mandarin, which they all speak as a second language. Taiwanese, Shanghainese, and the various languages of Fujian province have the status of "underwear languages" in the New York context. I suspect that the younger generations growing up here in NY learn Mandarin from their parents. I doubt many of the immigrant parents bother to teach their children the colloquial languages of their home towns.

  8. DCA said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:40 pm

    I believe the Basque concentration comes from many of them being shepherds, brought over to manage flocks of sheep (mostly) in
    the Intermountain region and California.

    The distribution of German suggests a single region (north half of the US away from the coasts) overlain by subsequent chain migrations from Poland (before 1925) and more recently south Asia, China, and Somalia.

  9. AbuMolly said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 1:42 pm

    Are there any states where Spanish is not the second most spoken language?

  10. Flip said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:05 pm

    The Somali concentration in Minnesota (and notably the MSP-Bloominton area) is due to a large influx of refugees and immigrants fleeing the Somali Civil War, as was said in the article. Church groups and other refugee resettlement organizations brought a lot of the Somali diaspora directly to the city, and those refugees established a very strong community, drawing Somalis in from other states as well. Side note: we also have an incredibly strong Hmong-speaking community, largely for the same reasons!

  11. Peter B. Golden said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:10 pm

    Polish in Illinois? – no problem – Chicago attracted a huge influx of Poles in the early decades of the last century (including my maternal grandmother) and continued to be a destination point for Poles coming to the US thereafter. Mention Chicago in a Polish-American setting today and everyone nods their head knowingly.

  12. Evelyn said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:25 pm

    Surprising to me in CA that Korean is not #1.

  13. Clément said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:44 pm

    I wouldn't be surprised if a good amount of the outliers were just noise. See https://xkcd.com/1845/

  14. neil said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:45 pm

    Georgia and Alabama have a sizable number of Korean car manufacturers, which explains at least some of the language's prominence there.

  15. Wally said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:53 pm

    40 years ago or so Czech was the third most common language in Texas.

  16. mae said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    Is it important whether the speakers are native speakers without fluency in a second language, bilingual speakers, or learners of the second language?

  17. Quinn C said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 3:05 pm

    First of all, I'm pretty sure I've seen a very similar map a few months ago. Ah, here:
    https://gizmodo.com/the-most-common-languages-spoken-in-the-u-s-state-by-1575719698

    This also links to an (older) Slate page with more maps.

    As for @John Baker's question where Spanish isn't the second most common language: Maine, Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii seem to be the top contenders. See the above and

    https://telelanguage.com/interactive-map-of-languages-united-states/

  18. Victor Mair said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 3:06 pm

    Their standard is the language spoken at home.

  19. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 3:39 pm

    To Thomas Hutcheson's point, the issue is that immigrants from South Asia speak lots of different languages and the Census Bureau tracks those languages separately rather than taking the "lumper" approach they do with "Chinese." So, e.g., New Jersey has around 130K "Chinese" speakers compared to around 275K speakers of *some* Indic language (plus another 75K speakers of some Dravidian language), but the largest single South Asian language is Gujarati at around 90K which thus trails the lumped-together "Chinese."

    For those interested, this link https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk will take you to national stats for various languages and groups thereof. If you go to the "Add/Remove Geographies" tab you can get data for states (not necessarily all) and counties (not necessarily most) etc.

  20. RP said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 3:39 pm

    @Thomas Hutcheson ("I'm surprised that only one state has an Indian language as first after English/Spanish. That means we have not been as successful attracting Indian/Pakistani speaking immigrants as we have Chinese"):

    That could be true, I don't know – but I don't think the data means that or shows that. After all, all the Chinese languages are being lumped together as "Chinese", whilst India's vast array of languages are obviously going to be registered separately, not as "Indian". (Also, some 260,000 Indians regard English as their mother tongue, and while many of them probably speak one or more other Indian languages as well, those other languages wouldn't be spoken at home, especially after moving to the US, so might not qualify.)

  21. RP said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 3:43 pm

    Ah, I see J.W. Brewer beat me to it.
    And on reflection, my aside about mother-tongue English speakers was probably irrelevant, since they are a minuscule proportion of the Indian population.

  22. Bruce Foster said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 4:28 pm

    Hmong in Wisconsin is a function of Lutheran Social Services that has been helping settle people for almost 50 years. My congregation in Mpls. was one of the first to get refugees from Vietnam. The wife of the lead pastor as secretary to the head of LSS. There is a funny line in one of Clint Eastwood finest movies, Grand Torino. He asks a Hmong girl he has saved from assault why so many settled in the cold Midwest. She says "Blame the Lutherans" Eastwood laughs and says "Everybody blames the Lutherans." I have never figured out how they discovered that bit of social history, but it made me laugh.

  23. tsts said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 4:39 pm

    @cameron: yes, that is basically correct. Although many of the "old school" immigrants actually speak Toihsanese, which is a dialect of Cantonese but not completely mutually intelligible with it. Most business owners still understand and speak Cantonese as the traditional lingua franca in Manhattan's Chinatown, and also in Brooklyn's Bensonhurst/86th Street area, but less in Sunset Park and Flushing. (Except for those Jingdezhen ceramics places – don't even try.)

    Mandarin is becoming more common, of course, for two reasons. (1) There are actually more native Mandarin speakers immigrating than before, and (2) because there are many more Fuzhounese, Hakka etc speakers who do not have Mandarin as their native language, but who have to communicate in Mandarin when they meet Cantonese speakers. This has led to a situation where many non-Cantonese speakers are labeled as "Mandarin speakers" even if they are not. Even now, I would think the majority of new immigrants in NYC are not native Mandarin speakers, with Toihsanese, Cantonese, and Fuzhounese making up at least 50%.

    Another issue is that some families do not pass their Cantonese or Fuzhounese down to their kids but teach them Mandarin instead. Unfortunately, the support even for Cantonese is quite bad – it is not that easy to find good courses for kids that teach Cantonese rather than Mandarin.

  24. KeithB said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 5:05 pm

    @Thomas Hutcheson

    Two states have Indian languages: Arizona and New Mexico. 8^)

  25. John Baker said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 5:11 pm

    Thanks, @Quinn C. I note that the map you link apparently has different data. For example, it gives the top NES languages for Maryland as "African languages" and Chinese. So that's different from (and, to me, more plausible than) the French that this map gives. My part of Maryland, at least, is among the most ethnically diverse areas in the United States, with many different languages spoken, but I can't say I've encountered much French here. Of course, neither Chinese nor "African languages" is a single language, but this map does treat Chinese as if it were a single language, so presumably that's what it should show for Maryland.

  26. steveB said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 6:53 pm

    @KeithB: Three, don't forget South Dakota!

  27. sicherhalten said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 10:06 pm

    I love these maps. They're so colorful. Polish in Illinois is so true. (Poland is not Indonesia lol.) W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie, I Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie! I love this because it rhymes.

  28. Carl said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 10:13 pm

    I suspect the French speakers in Maryland are West African, but this is just anecdotal based on my circle of acquaintances.

  29. Gsrrett Wollman said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 10:29 pm

    The popularity of Portuguese is Massachusetts and Rhode Island is not entirely a matter of whaling, because there are in fact three distinct waves of Lusophone immigration, and these people have largely settled in separate communities. The whalers were the Portuguese, and they mostly settled in whaling ports like Fall River and New Bedford. The next group to come was the Cape Verdeans, who settled in Boston. The last and currently largest group (and probably the only group still coming in significant numbers) is Brazilians, who settled in a different part of Boston, Somerville, and inland cities like Framingham, where I live. (I tried to search the census site for actual numbers but they have made it unusable.)

  30. Stuart Luppescu said,

    January 23, 2020 @ 10:36 pm

    Wow. When did Ilocano become #1 in Hawai'i? When I was there 40 years ago, and according a 2007 reference on the Wikipedia page for the state, Tagalog is the number 1 NES. But some people would claim da kine' talk (pidgin or HCE) is the most widely spoken NES. Do we count that as English? I don't think we should. Many mainland haoles can not at all understand local people speaking heavy duty pidgin.

  31. Victor Mair said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 1:24 am

    From Alan Kennedy:

    Most interesting to see this. We have a house in upstate NY near the border with Quebec, and it seems that virtually no one speaks French. Nice to see that French does well in a number of states.

    My parents are native Hungarian speakers, and in the 1980s Cleveland was considered to be the second largest "Hungarian" city after Budapest. In the second half of the18th century, Philadelphia was said to be the second largest English language city in the world after London.

    We've all heard the apocryphal tale of German almost becoming the official language of the US:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhlenberg_legend

    =====

    The Muhlenberg legend is an urban legend in the United States and Germany. According to the legend, the single vote of Frederick Muhlenberg, the first ever Speaker of the US House of Representatives, prevented German from becoming an official language of the United States. The story has a long history and has been told in several variations, which may be based in part on actual events.

    The United States, however, has no statutory official language; English has been used on a de facto basis because of its status as the country's predominant language. At times, various states have passed their own official language laws.

    =====

  32. John Swindle said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 4:39 am

    The most common languages other than English spoken at home in Hawaii in 2009–2013 were Tagalog, Ilocano, Japanese, Spanish, Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Samoan, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Marshallese, and Mandarin. "Pidgin" came in at #22. Source: The State of Hawaii Data Book 2018, Table 1.47, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

  33. maidhc said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 4:41 am

    tsts: KQED did a documentary about the old-time telephone operators in San Francisco's Chinatown. They had to speak Toihsanese, Cantonese and Mandarin. Every city in California had a name in each of these languages (all different, of course) and they had to know them all. All women.

    Gsrrett Wollman: California has had quite a lot of Portuguese immigration, but it seems almost all of it is from the Azores. And quite a lot of them were involved in the dairy industry. Congressman Devin Nunes is a currently prominent example, but I know of many others going back to at least the 1920s.

    From where I live in California, I'm surprised that Vietnamese is not the #3, but I think there are a lot of Tagalog speakers in Sacramento and the Central Valley. Although I am reminded of a spectacularly misleading racial breakdown that our local public university came up with some years back. It went something like this:

    White: 35%
    Asian: 30%
    Hispanic: 20%
    Filipino: 10%
    Native American, Pacific Islanders, etc.: 5%

    These are not the exact numbers, but just to illustrate the point. "Asian" is a grab-bag including Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc. and also South Asians. And then they pulled the Filipinos out separately, as if they are not also Asians, just to make sure that the white category is the biggest one.

    I am glad to report that there was sufficient backpressure that the university was forced to admit that, yes, there are more Asian students than white students. (Note that these are racial origin breakdowns–the "Asian" students may well have been born in the US. Also my numbers are wrong because African-Americans should be in there too. I wish I had easy access to the original numbers.)

    Filipino-Americans are somewhat an invisible minority because many of them have Hispanic-style surnames. I am a little surprised at how many are speaking Tagalog, but why not?

    DCA: Yes, if you go to a wool festival in California, you will find the Basques well represented.

  34. M. Paul Shore said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 4:43 am

    In addition to the francophone West Africans that Carl mentions being aware of in Maryland, I'd speculate that the prominence of the French language there, and in neighboring D.C., owes a lot to the sizable francophone community in and around the Bethesda area of Montgomery County, just over the border from Northwest D.C. French speakers have clustered in and around Bethesda largely because of the presence of the 1100-student French International School (the largest such school in the United States) and the proximity of various embassies, including the French Embassy a few miles away in Georgetown.

  35. Nathan Cain said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 9:33 am

    I do volunteer work with Chinese people in Central Arkansas. Most of them are from Fujian and speak Fuzhouese. Of course they all speak Mandarin too.

  36. Bob Michael said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 10:15 am

    I'm very surprised to see French predominant in North Carolina. I would have guessed Spanish, just from my experience living here. Who are these French speakers?

  37. Bob Michael said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 10:18 am

    Ah…Spanish is excluded. Still I wonder about French speakers in NC.

  38. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 10:19 am

    I now realize that the link I posted yesterday afternoon may not get you anywhere useful if you click on it, due to the intricacies and/or deficiencies of the Census Bureau's website as it has been modified over time. If you use your browser to search for "ACS B16001," that should get you to the right place, or at least a right place, and you can then experiment with the "Add/Remove Geographies" feature to get from nationwide stats to more localized ones.

    It's worth emphasizing that however important regional variation in historical immigration patterns (let's say more than 60-70 years ago) may be to understanding other current variations in American regional/local culture, that history tends not to have much direct impact on this measure, because with a limited number of exceptions the vast majority of immigrant groups shift toward being at-home Anglophones by let's say the 3d generation at the latest. So to return to my native Delaware as an example, almost 10% of the population (7th highest %age in the US) is of Italian ancestry/ethnicity, but barely 0.2% of the current population speaks Italian at home, whereas because the much smaller Haitian-American population reflects much more recent arrival time in the U.S., the number of current Delawareans who speak Kreyol at home is notably larger than the number who speak Italian. No doubt the number of middle-aged Italian-American residents who remember at least some smattering of Italian words or phrases they picked up in childhood from their grandparents is much larger than the 0.2%, but on a daily basis their current household language is English.

    While I say "no direct impact," there may well be *indirect* impact if e.g. a new wave of immigrants speaking a particular language disproportionately settles in the same places in the U.S. that had significant immigration of that language community a century previously — there's still a lot of Polish spoken in Chicago, but that's largely a factor of a substantial flow of more recent arrivals rather than because the great-grandchildren of the original arrivals had kept it up as a home language. Something similar may be true with newer waves of immigrants speaking Portuguese, Armenian, and various other tongues.

  39. Victor Mair said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 10:31 am

    @Nathan Cain

    My interactions with recent immigrants from China in the Philadelphia area and elsewhere in the United States and even in other countries have left me stunned by how many of them come from Fuzhou. I wonder what is causing this flood of Fuzhouese around the world.

  40. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 10:34 am

    @Bob Michael – the map seems to be using a slightly different datasource than the specific ACS data I pointed to, which has French in 4th place in North Carolina, just a little bit behind Chinese and a little bit ahead of Vietnamese and Arabic. But the more important point is that all of those 3d-through-6th-place languages are very small in percentage terms, with their estimated numbers of at-home speakers all falling in a range in between 25,000 and 35,000 in a state with over 9.5 million residents. By contrast the number for Spanish is around 730,000. If less than 1 in 300 North Carolinians is an at-home Francophone, it's perhaps understandable that their presence does not leap out at you on an ordinary day out doing your shopping or what have you.

    A rather different but perhaps equally interesting map would be one showing the aggregate percentage of residents of each state who speak any language other than English or Spanish at home, because there will be quite substantial variation in that figure.

  41. Rose Eneri said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 11:13 am

    We lived in Ellicott City, Maryland for several years. When it was time to sell our house there, the real estate agent said he would be advertising it in newspapers in Korea. That's how many Koreans live in (and want to live in) the area. But, no need. We sold the first week to an African-American family.

  42. tsts said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 1:08 pm

    @maiddc: Concerning people from the Azores in CA, there is actually a direct commercial flight from Oakland to Lajes, which is on Terceira (not the main island). Not sure how frequent and it might be seasonal. The only other places with direct flights to the Azores are Boston (because it is the other hotspot for immigration from the Azores) and I think also New York (because, New York).

    I remember being tempted to book it when I lived in CA, but I never got around to doing it.

  43. John Baker said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 2:55 pm

    @Carl, I am now informed that is indeed the case: French-speaking people in Maryland come from Africa, and there are quite a few of them. So perhaps French is not quite as unlikely as I had surmised.

  44. Mary Janzen said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 3:41 pm

    @Matt Pennsylvania Dutch is not a Low German dialect (Low German originally being spoken in northern Germany and the Netherlands and a close cousin to Anglo-Saxon). Rather it is from the Palatinate region of Germany–see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatine_German_language. Many Anabaptists including Amish first migrated there from Switzerland before migrating to colonial Pennsylvania.

  45. Phillip Helbig said,

    January 24, 2020 @ 5:14 pm

    "I wouldn't be surprised if a good amount of the outliers were just noise."

    That was also my first thought. Such a map makes sense only if the most common NES language is significantly (in a statistical sense, say, more than 1.5 standard deviations) more common than the second-most-common NES language.

  46. Christopher Sundita said,

    January 25, 2020 @ 2:03 am

    Hawai'i is the only place where you can take Ilokano classes and even get a degree in Ilokano. Not even in Ilocandia, not even in the entire Philippines. When I was in Maui, I was happy to find Ilokano shows on the radio!

    Being from Washington State, I was kind of surprised that neither Korean or Vietnamese are the most spoken, but on my recent visits home it does seem like that the Chinese community has grown. Filipinos, from what I recall of the 2000 census, were the largest Asian group (those who chose Filipino alone and combined with another race).

  47. Jenny Chu said,

    January 25, 2020 @ 3:29 am

    What about the District of Columbia? I was thinking that ASL might be a big one there.

  48. Victor Mair said,

    January 26, 2020 @ 8:45 am

    From a friend who lives in South Lyon, Michigan, not too far from Ann Arbor:

    I am in German-Polish country. My neighbors on my right and left are
    German-Polish, as is most of this Michigan town.

  49. M. Paul Shore said,

    January 26, 2020 @ 11:23 am

    @ Jenny Chu: I'd tend to assume that French occupies third place after English and Spanish in the District of Columbia for the same apparent reasons it occupies that place in neighboring Maryland, as discussed previously in this thread: immigration from francophone African countries, and the at least temporary residential presence of native speakers who work at embassies of French-speaking countries and/or send their children to the French International School in the nearby Maryland community of Bethesda.

  50. C Miran said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 10:19 am

    @Thomas Hutcheson ("I'm surprised that only one state has an Indian language as first after English/Spanish. That means we have not been as successful attracting Indian/Pakistani speaking immigrants as we have Chinese"):

    Hi Thomas, Its not the Indian language you are thinking about. Not from India. It's NATIVE AMERICAN. As in Apache, Navajo, etc. tribes living there. In New Mexico, for example, it is one of the top languages spoken in that state.

  51. John Swindle said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    @C Miran: New Jersey. Gujarati.

  52. Noora said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 6:13 pm

    I'm from Illinois, and I automatically assume when I hear a Polish name that the person is from Chicago or thereabouts. Great accuracy.

  53. AJ said,

    January 29, 2020 @ 12:41 pm

    Coming from Alabama, I associate Korean with church signs – my vague understanding was that at some point in the past Southern Baptists had had a rush of enthusiasm about missionary work at the same time that Korea was feeling generous about allowing missionaries in. Whether that makes any historical sense or not, there seem to be a fair number of Korean Baptist churches, and that could influence your immigration decisions even if you're not a churchgoer (a foreign country's a little less daunting when your cousin's pastor knows a guy there who can walk you through the paperwork, etc).

  54. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    January 29, 2020 @ 1:32 pm

    I think Thomas may be referring to the one state with Nepali?

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