California city street, one of the most multilingual states
By: Alison On: September 14, 2016 In: Languages Comments: 0

United States 2015 Census data on the most multilingual regions of the US reveals some interesting surprises as to where you can expect to find the most language diversity in the country. While some of the states that made the top ten list seem like givens — New York and California, for instance — others may take you by surprise.

1) California

California is king when it comes to bi- and multilingual residents. A whopping 45 percent of California’s inhabitants speak a language other than English in the home.

California is well-known for its Hispanic population and, just as Spanish is the second most popular language in the US as a whole, it’s also the second most-spoken language in the state. Other languages with a significant presence include Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, as well as Arabic, Armenian and Tagalog.

2) Texas

Like California, many of Texas’s bilingual residents use Spanish in the home. According to census numbers, 35 percent of the state’s residents speak a language other than English at home, such as Chinese, German or Vietnamese.

3) New Mexico

New Mexico comes in third place in the rankings of bilingual citizens, with 34 percent of the state’s population speaking another language. Unsurprisingly, most of those speak Spanish, but a fair number speak Navajo and/or other Native American languages.

4) New York

No surprise here! New York state has 31 percent of residents speaking a second language. This state is also home to NYC where you’re likely to hear an enormous diversity of languages, whether it’s Chinese, Italian, Russian or Yiddish — sometimes all of these within the same city block!

5) New Jersey

New Jersey rounds out the top five in our list of states with the most language diversity with 31 percent of the state’s residents speaking a second language other than English. Due to its proximity to New York, a fair amount of immigrants have settled in the Garden State, contributing to populations speaking Chinese, Gujarati, Portuguese, Spanish — and of course, Italian.

6) Nevada

Nevada is home to more than Las Vegas glitz and glam, and dry desert landscapes. This western US state is also home to a diverse number of languages, with 30 percent of the population being at least bilingual. Chinese, German and Tagalog add to the predominant second language of the Southwest: Spanish.

7) Florida

“Bienvenido a Miami” is a good way to welcome visitors to Florida’s notorious party city, which is also well-known for its Spanish-speaking population. In the state as a whole, 29 percent of the population speaks a second language, including French, German and Italian.

8) Arizona

Arizona comes in at number eight as of 2015 Census data.  The state claims a bilingual population of 27 percent, most of them speaking Spanish and, like New Mexico, Navajo and other Native American tongues.

9) Hawaii

It might not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of language diversity in the US, but Hawaii still makes it into the top ten with 26 percent of the Aloha State’s residents claiming to be bilingual. Japanese is quite prominent on the islands, as are Chinese, Korean and Tagalog — along with Hawaiian, the state’s second official language.

10. Illinois & Massachusetts (tie)

With 23 percent of their populations speaking a foreign language at home, both Illinois and Massachusetts take the final spot in our top ten list.

In Illinois, you’re likely to hear residents speaking Chinese, German, Spanish and, if you’re in Chicago especially, Polish. In Massachusetts, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Portuguese, Vietnamese and French predominate.

Surprised by Multilingual States?

Were you surprised by the states that made the top 10? Did you expect any of the other 39 states to offer more language diversity than the ones shown here? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

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