Most Common Language in U.S. States (Besides English and Spanish)
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The Most Commonly Spoken Language in Every U.S. State (Besides English and Spanish)

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Map of the most commonly spoken languages apart from English or Spanish in every U.S. State

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The Most Common Spoken Household Languages

We typically operate under the assumption that most Americans speak either English or Spanish. Though this is true in the broadest sense, the U.S. is a culturally diverse country, home to a plethora of languages.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 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.

Migration Policy has used this data (while excluding English and Spanish) to leave us with the next-most-frequently spoken languages at home in each state.

Non-English Languages in the U.S.

In 2019, approximately 78% (241 million) of all 308.8 million people ages five and older reported speaking only English at home regardless of their nativity. The remaining 22% (67.8 million) reported speaking a language other than English at home.

Based on this data, Mandarin and Cantonese were the most common non-English, non-Spanish languages spoken in the U.S., with more than 3.4 million speakers across the country.

Here is a list of the most common languages spoken at home in the U.S., outside of English:

LanguagePopulation EstimateShare of Foreign Language Speakers
Spanish41,757,00061.6%
Cantonese and Mandarin3,495,0005.2%
Tagalog1,764,0002.6%
Vietnamese1,571,0002.3%
Arabic1,260,0001.9%
French and Louisiana French1,172,0001.7%
Korean1,075,0001.6%
Russian941,0001.4%
Haitian Creole925,0001.4%
German895,0001.3%
Hindi893,0001.3%
Portuguese846,0001.2%
Afro-Asiatic Languages590,0000.9%
West African Languages589,0000.9%
Indo-European Languages576,0000.8%
West Germanic Languages560,0000.8%
Italian540,0000.8%

Tagalog is the second most commonly spoken language in American households (after English/Spanish) with 1.7 million speakers, even though it only reaches top spot in Nevada. Unsurprisingly, Louisiana and states bordering eastern Canada have a healthy number of French speakers.

Further analysis of these common languages reveals a fascinating story. Here’s a breakdown of the top 5 most commonly spoken second languages (excluding English and Spanish), and the states where they’re spoken.

1. Cantonese and Mandarin

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 3,495,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 17

States that most commonly speak the language: California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

Chinese immigrants have been coming to America in large numbers since the mid-19th century, when the California Gold Rush compelled them to cross the Pacific Ocean. Today, there are over 5 million Chinese Americans across the country.

2. Tagalog

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,764,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 1

States that most commonly speak the language: Nevada

Immigrants from the Philippines started coming to America in large numbers by the turn of the 19th century, but it wasn’t until 1965 that both skilled and educated workers came by the thousands. Today, there are over 4 million Filipino Americans.

3. Vietnamese

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,571,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 5

States that most commonly speak the language: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.

South Vietnamese immigration to the U.S. began right after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and more Vietnamese people have been arriving ever since. Today, over half of all Vietnamese-Americans live in either California or Texas.

4. Arabic

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,260,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 2

States that most commonly speak the language: Michigan and Tennessee

Michigan alone has over 140,000 Arabic speakers. California has over 190,000 speakers. Pew Research Center noted that Arabic is the fastest-growing language in the U.S., with speakers growing by 29% from 2010 to 2014.

5. French

Estimated number of speakers nationally: 1,172,000

Number of states where it’s the most common: 4

States that most commonly speak the language: Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

After the Louisiana Purchase, French evolved from its original form, creating Louisiana French which also borrows words from English, Spanish, Native American, and African languages. To this day, it’s still spoken by around 175,000 people in Louisiana and Texas.

The United States: A Multilingual Country

Although English, in all its diversity, is unquestionably the country’s dominant national language, the U.S. has always had a complex multilingual history. Long before European settlers colonized North and South America, thousands of indigenous languages thrived from coast to coast. Today, some Indigenous languages are making a comeback as many states acknowledge their importance in the history and culture of the country.

With each new wave of immigrants residing in the country from every part of the globe, the linguistic and cultural diversity of the United States is growing.

The U.S. has one of the largest Chinese populations outside China, a demographic shift that may increase in the coming years. Spanish is now the most popular second language of the country.

America is home to the largest population of English speakers in the world, but bilingualism has been on the rise in the country for decades – a trend that shows no signs of letting up.

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Misc

10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

Excited to get back to travelling the world? This infographic highlights the 10 most popular tourist destinations.

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10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization formally classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. The resulting travel bans decimated the tourism industry, and international air travel initially fell by as much as 98%.

Almost two years later, travel is finally back on the table, though there are many restrictions to consider. Regardless, a survey conducted in September 2021 found that, as things revert to normalcy, 82% of Americans are looking forward to international travel more than anything else.

To give inspiration for your next vacation (whenever that may be), this infographic lists the 10 most visited countries in 2019, as well as three of their top attractions according to Google Maps.

Bon Voyage

Here were the 10 most popular travel destinations in 2019, measured by their number of international arrivals.

CountryNumber of international arrivals in 2019 (millions)
🇫🇷 France*90.0
🇪🇸 Spain83.5
🇺🇸 U.S.79.3
🇨🇳 China65.7
🇮🇹 Italy64.5
🇹🇷 Turkey51.2
🇲🇽 Mexico45.0
🇹🇭 Thailand39.8
🇩🇪 Germany39.6
🇬🇧 United Kingdom39.4

*Estimate | Source: World Bank

France was the most popular travel destination by a significant margin, and it’s easy to see why. The country is home to many of the world’s most renowned sights, including the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre Museum.

The Arc de Triomphe was built in the early 1800s, and honors those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1944, Allied soldiers marched through the monument after Paris was liberated from the Nazis.

The Louvre Museum, on the other hand, is often recognized by its giant glass pyramid. The museum houses over 480,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Art isn’t the only thing that France has to offer. The country has a reputation for culinary excellence, and is home to 632 Michelin-starred restaurants, the most out of any country. Japan comes in at second, with 413.

While You’re There…

After seeing the sights in Paris, you may want to consider a visit to Spain. The country is the southern neighbor of France and is known for its beautiful villages and beaches.

One of its most impressive sights is the Sagrada Familia, a massive 440,000 square feet church which began construction in 1882, and is still being worked on today (139 years in the making). The video below shows the structure’s striking evolution.

At a height of 172 meters, the Sagrada Familia is approximately 52 stories tall.

Another popular spot is Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain that is famous for its robust nightlife scene. The island is frequently mentioned in pop culture—Netflix released an adventure/romance movie titled Ibiza in 2018, and the remix of Mike Posner’s song I Took a Pill in Ibiza has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube.

Beaches Galore

If you’re looking for something outside of Europe, consider Mexico or Thailand, which are the 7th and 8th most popular travel destinations. Both offer hot weather and an abundance of white sand beaches.

If you need even more convincing, check out these links:

Expect Turbulence

Under normal circumstances, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year by international tourists. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTCC), this spending accounted for an impressive 10.4% of global GDP in 2019.

Travel restrictions introduced in 2020 dealt a serious blow to the industry, reducing its share of global GDP to 5.5%, and wiping out an estimated 62 million jobs. While the WTCC believes these jobs could return by 2022, the emerging Omicron variant has already prompted many countries to tighten restrictions once again.

To avoid headaches in the future, make sure you fully understand the rules and restrictions of where you’re heading.

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Misc

Which Values Children Should Be Encouraged to Learn, By Country

Which qualities do people think are most important for children to learn? The answer differs from country to country.

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Qualities Children Should Learn

Many of the values we prioritize as adults were instilled in us during our childhood days.

They’re called our formative years for a reason—from when we’re born up until we’re about eight years old, our brains are easily molded and remain highly sensitive to external influences and environments. But depending on where you grew up, you may have been exposed to different values during your childhood compared to someone from another place.

These visualizations by Anders Sundell illustrate the most important values people think children should learn at home, across more than 80 different countries.

Methodology

Sundell used data from the World Values Survey, an international survey that interviews hundreds of thousands of participants from across the globe. Respondents were asked to pick up to five qualities they believe are the most desirable for children to have:

  • Good manners
  • Independence
  • Hard work
  • Feeling of responsibility
  • Imagination
  • Tolerance and respect for other people
  • Thrift, saving money
  • Determination and perseverance
  • Religious faith
  • Unselfishness
  • Obedience

Sundell took the survey data and calculated the proportion of people in each country that selected each quality. From there, he took the top qualities and created three separate plot graphs to show the contrast between them.

Let’s look at the importance that countries placed on different values, including (1) independence and obedience, (2) unselfishness and religious faith, and (3) hard work and imagination.

1. Independence vs Obedience

Nordic countries value independence greatly, and find obedience to be a less important quality to instill in children.

Independence_vs_Obedience

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Other available data also supports that adults in Nordic countries value independence. According to Eurostat, the most common age to leave home in Sweden is between 17 and 18—nearly a decade sooner than the average age across the EU (26 years old).

Denmark’s average age to leave home is also below the European average, at 21 years old.

On the other end of the spectrum, countries like Iraq and Egypt believe obedience is much more important for children to learn.

2. Unselfishness vs Religious Faith

Bangladesh, Egypt, and Jordan all place a strong emphasis on faith, and fall on the far right of this graph.

unselfishness_versus_faith

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Islam is a strong influence in all three of these countries. In Bangladesh and Jordan, it’s the official state religion. And while Egypt is a secular country, a majority of citizens identify as Muslim—about 90% of the population.

Interestingly, places like the U.S. and Hong Kong fall right in the between, placing relatively equal importance on religion and unselfishness.

3. Hard Work vs Imagination

Left-leaning Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland think imagination is more important for children to learn than hard work.

Hardwork_versus_imagination

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Interestingly, Japan also scored high for imagination, seeing it was a more important value to teach children than hard work. This is despite the fact that the country has an international reputation for being a hardworking country, where even taking an extended vacation can be frowned upon. Then again, Japan has a reputation for producing wildly creative works of art that are popular internationally (anime, for instance).

As expected, countries and cultures contain multitudes, and can often seem paradoxical and complex to those who try to codify them.

What qualities do you think are most important, and what countries surprised you with their placements?

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