Map: The most popular languages (other than the obvious English or Spanish)

February 25, 2014

Most popular languages besides English or Spanish. (Reproduced, with permission, from Alexandr Trubetskoy. Source: American Community Survey.)

(Like maps? Check out our recent 25 maps and charts that explain America today post.)

Top-line statistics often reveal little. But peel back the first set of layers, and you reveal a lot of diversity — and history.

When we posted a handful of maps on religion a few months ago, one of them seemed to generate a lot of discussion. It wasn’t the one that stated the obvious — that Christian religions are predominant everywhere — but rather one that asked a follow-up question: What are the most popular non-Christian religions? Buddhism was popular in the West, Judasim in the Northeast, and Islam in the Midwest and South. It was fascinating, and that’s why we love the map above, which shows the third most-popular languages spoken throughout the country.

English, brace yourself, is the most widely spoken language in America with 78 percent of the population speaking it predominantly at home. It’s the most popular in every state. Spanish is a close second with 14 percent of Americans speaking it at home. That leaves about 8 percent who mostly speak other languages at home. It may seem like a small slice, but that’s more than 23 million people. And the enclaves throughout the country reflect this nation’s modern and historical diversity.

Chinese predominates in the regions surrounding San Francisco and Los Angeles, the largest cities in a state that benefited greatly from Chinese laborers. Both Louisiana and Maine continue to be influenced by their French pasts. Chicago remains a Polish stronghold, and the New York region is a multi-colored smattering of everything. Some clusters are more interesting. There are pockets of German and Vietnamese in Texas, and a little lump of Arabic speakers in West Virginia, as one Reddit user pointed out.

Click on the map to see a larger version. And thanks to the map’s author Alexandr Trubetskoy for agreeing to let us repost his work. Follow him on Twitter or check out his page for more information on the map. (And if you like maps, you might enjoy our 25 maps and charts that explain America today.)

And here’s a look at the second-most popular languages throughout the country from The Washington Post graphics team:

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
Comments
Show Comments

Get the GovBeat newsletter

Sign up for twice-weekly updates from GovBeat.

Most Read Politics
Next Story
Reid Wilson · February 25, 2014