The United States was founded on immigration and over time has become a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. With roots in different parts of the world, it’s no wonder there are a multitude of languages spoken by American families across the country.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the American Community Survey 2015-2019 5-year estimates to find which language, other than English and Spanish, is spoken most often at home in each state.
Spanish is by far the most widely spoken foreign language in the country, with 40.7 million people across the country speaking it at home. This represents 13.4% of the country’s population. Spanish is the most spoken language after English in all but four states: Maine and Vermont (French), Hawaii (Ilocano) and Alaska (mother tongue). We excluded Spanish from our analysis to identify more nuanced regional differences. Also from the ACS, we looked at data on the ancestry of state residents.
The second most widely spoken foreign language, Chinese, is actually a group of languages and dialects. About 3.4 million people in the United States (1.1% of the population) speak some version of Chinese at home – Mandarin and Cantonese are the most popular.
Vietnamese follows with just over 1.5 million people in the United States who speak it. Chinese is the most spoken foreign language, apart from Spanish, in 18 states and Vietnamese in five.
Many people can identify their ancestry, but far fewer speak the original language of their ancestors. For example, many American residents have German roots, but only a tiny fraction currently speak the language at home. This would make sense as immigrants assimilate and new generations speak English rather than their parents’ native language.
About one-fifth of American citizens were born outside the country, and 97% of all Americans identify with non-American ancestry. You can discover the most unusual ancestry in each state here.
Click here to see the most spoken foreign languages in each state