The Most Commonly Spoken Foreign Languages in Each State

July 1, 2017 by Cheyenne Buckingham

Source: Thinkstock
One of the most remarkable aspects of the United States is its diversity, as a myriad of different cultures and ethnicities mix together every day. Still, the cultural mix is different in each state — and inevitably so are the most spoken languages.

While English and Spanish dominate the charts in nearly every state, several other languages follow not too far behind. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, close to 40 million U.S. residents speak Spanish at home, followed by 2.1 million Chinese speakers. Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Arabic, and Korean are each spoken by over a million people nationwide.

Looking at the state level, German is the most commonly spoken language among the 50 states after English and Spanish. Just how popular is the German language? In 11 states, German is the most popular foreign language, making it the most frequently occurring foreign language on this list.

Vietnamese clocks in as the second most common top foreign language in states, with the population in a total of seven states speaking it most frequently. Chinese follows closely behind with the population of six states speaking it the most — after English and Spanish.

Read on to see which other languages are most commonly spoken in your state — you may even know someone who speaks it or speak it yourself.

Click here to see the most commonly spoken foreign languages in each state.
Click here to see our methodology.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Alabama
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 7,573
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.2%

Alabama is the sweet home to several Vietnamese speakers. According to the 2015 ACS conducted by the Census, 7,514 residents have Vietnamese ancestry. This means that 34 people who don’t share the ancestry also speak Vietnamese at home. Despite Vietnamese being the most popular foreign language spoken in Alabama, only 0.2% of the population speak it.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Most popular language: Aleut-Eskimo Languages
> Residents who speak Aleut-Eskimo Languages at home: 25,718
> Aleut-Eskimo Languages-speaking population: 3.5%

Alaska is the only state that has Eskimo-Aleut languages as its most commonly spoken language after English and Spanish. The Eskimo and Aleut are indigenous peoples native to some of the most northern parts of the globe. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Aleut is a single language with two surviving dialects. Eskimo consists of two divisions: Yupik, spoken in Siberia and southwestern Alaska, and Inuit, spoken in northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.”

Source: Thinkstock

3. Arizona
> Most popular language: Navajo
> Residents who speak Navajo at home: 82,109
> Navajo-speaking population: 1.2%

Arizona, along with New Mexico and Utah, are home to The Navajo Nation. The largest Native American land area in the United States is the Navajo Nation Reservation, which comprises 16 million acres across those three states. In Arizona, 213,576 people have American Indian ancestry, and more than 82,000 speak Navajo at home.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Arkansas
> Most popular language: Chinese
> Residents who speak Chinese at home: 5,578
> Chinese-speaking population: 0.2%

The third most popular foreign language in the United States, Chinese is the most commonly spoken foreign language in Arkansas. A total of 9,681 people in the state have Chinese ancestry. Although Chinese is the most popular foreign spoken language in Arkansas, only 0.2% of the population speak it.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: nickchapman / Wikimedia Commons

5. California
> Most popular language: Tagalog
> Residents who speak Tagalog at home: 832,024
> Tagalog-speaking population: 2.1%

A whopping 2.1% of people in California speak Tagalog, a language common in the Philippines. It’s interesting that Tagalog — the base for the Filipino language — is spoken more commonly in California than Filipino, which is the official language in The Philippines.

Source: Thinkstock

6. Colorado
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 24,875
> German-speaking population: 0.5%

German is the most commonly spoken foreign language in 11 states, which makes it the most frequently occurring language on this list. However, even though 24,875 people in Colorado speak German at home, an astonishing 774,022 residents have German ancestry, or 14.2% of the state’s population.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Thinkstock

7. Connecticut
> Most popular language: Polish
> Residents who speak Polish at home: 41,233
> Polish-speaking population: 1.1%

“Come for the food, stay for the people,” is the slogan of the Polish National Home of Hartford, a cultural and social organization created over 85 years ago. The organization helps the Polish-American community in Hartford, Connecticut promote and preserve the Polish culture. Approximately one in 20 Connecticut residents have Polish ancestry.

8. Delaware
> Most popular language: Hindi
> Residents who speak Hindi at home: 5,229
> Hindi-speaking population: 0.6%

Delaware is the lone state that has Hindi as its most commonly spoken foreign language. Hindi is the official language of India, where it is spoken as a first language by approximately 425 million people. Compare that to Delaware, where just over 5,000 people speak the language.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Florida
> Most popular language: French Creole
> Residents who speak French Creole at home: 435,489
> French Creole-speaking population: 2.1%

Florida is not only the Sunshine State, but also the only state that has French Creole is its top foreign language. Unlike most states, the number of people who speak the most common foreign language in Florida is greater than the number of people with Creole ancestry. Only 1,709 people have documented Creole ancestry, despite the large group of 435,489 residents speaking the French variety at home.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Schnitzel_bank / Flickr

10. Georgia
> Most popular language: Korean
> Residents who speak Korean at home: 46,997
> Korean-speaking population: 0.5%

Georgia stands alone with Korean as its most popular foreign language. The 55,543 people in Georgia with Korean ancestry is in line with the 46,997 state residents who currently speak Korean at home.

Source: Thinkstock

11. Hawaii
> Most popular language: Ilocano
> Residents who speak Ilocano at home: 59,454
> Ilocano-speaking population: 4.2%

Hawaii, the vacation-getaway state has a predominantly large Ilocano-speaking population, with 4.2% of islanders using it at home. Ilocano originated in The Philippines in the late 16th century and later migrated to neighboring islands, as well as, the relatively far Hawaii archipelago.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

12. Idaho
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 5,900
> Arabic-speaking population: 0.4%

One of four states that have Arabic as its leading foreign language other than Spanish is none other than the U.S.’s own Gem State. According to Census data, more than 7,000 people in Idaho can trace their ancestry to Arabic-speaking countries.

Source: Thinkstock

13. Illinois
> Most popular language: Polish
> Residents who speak Polish at home: 176,240
> Polish-speaking population: 1.4%

The most commonly spoken foreign language in Illinois is Polish. The number of people in Illinois who speak Polish is far lower than the number people with Polish ancestry. There are 176,240 Illinois residents who speak Polish at home, versus 654,339 residents with Polish ancestry.

Source: Photo by Greg Hume / Wikimedia Commons

14. Indiana
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 28,243
> German-speaking population: 0.4%

German is the most popular foreign language spoken in the United States after Spanish, and Indiana is one of the 11 states with the most residents speaking it. Approximately 17.3% of people in Indiana have German ancestry, one of the larger German populations of all states.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Thinkstock

15. Iowa
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 11,538
> German-speaking population: 0.4%

Iowa also claims German as its most commonly spoken foreign language. A whopping 27.9% of the population has ancestors from Germany, the fifth largest percentages compared to other states. Still, very few Iowans actually speak the language.

Source: Thinkstock

16. Kansas
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 16,417
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.6%

Vietnamese is the most commonly spoken foreign language in Kansas, and six other states, making it the second most frequently occurring language on this list. According to the Census, 18,011 people have Vietnamese ancestry. That’s not too far off from the number of residents who speak Vietnamese at home.

[in-text-ad]

17. Kentucky
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 17,638
> German-speaking population: 0.4%

While only 17,638 people reportedly speak German in Kentucky, 457,999 residents have German ancestry.

Source: faungg's photos / Flickr

18. Louisiana
> Most popular language: French
> Residents who speak French at home: 76,924
> French-speaking population: 1.6%

It’s no surprise that the most popular foreign language in Louisiana is French. Why? Two words: Mardi Gras. Close to one in every 10 Louisiana residents has French ancestry.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Maine
> Most popular language: French
> Residents who speak French at home: 33,524
> French-speaking population: 2.5%

This northernmost New England state is home to many French speakers. In fact, 11% of the population has French ancestry.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Thinkstock

20. Maryland
> Most popular language: Chinese
> Residents who speak Chinese at home: 50,393
> Chinese-speaking population: 0.8%

Maryland has a population of just over 6 million people. Of that, only 1.3% have Chinese ancestry, which is one half a percent more than those who actually speak it. Yet, Chinese still is the top foreign language spoken in the state, aside from Spanish.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Massachusetts
> Most popular language: Portuguese
> Residents who speak Portuguese at home: 189,445
> Portuguese-speaking population: 2.8%

It’s fitting that the largest Portuguese festival in the world is held in the state that has the most Portuguese speakers. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament also sweeps the title as the largest ethnic festival in New England. A total of 225,342 people in Massachusetts have ancestors from Portugal. Another 70,977 residents trace their ancestry to Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

22. Michigan
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 132,608
> Arabic-speaking population: 1.3%

About 1.3% of Michigan’s population speaks Arabic, making Michigan one of four states where Arabic is the most spoken foreign language. Close to 50,000 state residents are of Lebanese descent, the most frequently cited ancestry compared with other Arabic-speaking countries and regions tracked by the Census.

Source: Thinkstock

23. Minnesota
> Most popular language: Hmong
> Residents who speak Hmong at home: 61,380
> Hmong-speaking population: 1.1%

The Hmong is an ethnic group living predominantly in China and Southeast Asia. According to the Census, more than 236,902 Hmong people live in the United States. In Minnesota, more than 25% of that number speak the language and claim Hmong ancestry.

Source: /\ \/\/ /\ / Flickr

24. Mississippi Done
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 6,153
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.2%

According to the Census, 6,562 people in Mississippi have Vietnamese ancestry, about the same number of state residents who report speaking Vietnamese at home.

[in-text-ad-2]

25. Missouri
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 17,526
> German-speaking population: 0.3%

Again, we see the number of people with German ancestry well exceeding the number of people currently speaking the language at home, which means for many Missouri families German ancestors may be quite distant. In Missouri, the Census had documented just over 1.2 million people or, 18.1% of the state’s population, as having German ancestry, but only 0.3% of the population speaks German.

Source: Thinkstock

26. Montana
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 9,132
> German-speaking population: 0.9%

Another one of the 11 states claiming German as the most popular spoken foreign language is Montana. Nearly 195,000 people have ancestors from Germany. To put this into perspective, that’s 18.8% of the state’s population. Despite this, not even 1% of Montana residents speak the language.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

27. Nebraska
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 7,390
> Arabic-speaking population: 0.4%

According to the Arab American Institute, “Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880’s,” and as many as 3.7 million Americans can trace their roots to an Arab country. In Nebraska alone, more than 17,000 people can trace their ancestry to one of the Arabic-speaking nations and regions tracked by the Census.

Source: Thinkstock

28. Nevada
> Most popular language: Tagalog
> Residents who speak Tagalog at home: 74,337
> Tagalog-speaking population: 2.6%

Nevada is one of the three states with Tagalog as the most popular spoken foreign language. Approximately 4% of the population has Filipino ancestors, which is where the language originated.

Source: AlexiusHoratius / Wikimedia Commons

29. New Hampshire
> Most popular language: French
> Residents who speak French at home: 19,515
> French-speaking population: 1.5%

Nearly 10% of New Hampshire’s population consists of people with French ancestry. Like many New England states, New Hampshire shares a border with Quebec, Canada’s French-speaking province.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

30. New Jersey
> Most popular language: Chinese
> Residents who speak Chinese at home: 86,700
> Chinese-speaking population: 1.0%

Out of the near 9 million people who live in New Jersey, 129,548 have Chinese ancestry. This accounts for 1.4% of the state’s population. And most speak the language as well.

Source: Christopher Nicol / Wikimedia Commons

31. New Mexico
> Most popular language: Navajo
> Residents who speak Navajo at home: 60,322
> Navajo-speaking population: 2.9%

The second state to have the most Navajo speakers, New Mexico also has a considerable amount of the state’s population has Native American ancestry. Specifically, a little over 5% of the population.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Thinkstock

32. New York
> Most popular language: Chinese
> Residents who speak Chinese at home: 395,933
> Chinese-speaking population: 2.0%

Nearly 20 million people inhabit the state of New York. According to the Census nearly 600,000 people in the state have Chinese ancestry. In other words, it is likely that around two-thirds of the people who have Chinese ancestry speak a form of Chinese in New York.

Source: jessicasarahs / Flickr

33. North Carolina
> Most popular language: French
> Residents who speak French at home: 26,381
> French-speaking population: 0.3%

Almost 1% of the population in North Carolina have French ancestry, 89,807 to be exact. While Spanish dominates the near 11% of languages other than English spoken in North Carolina, French doesn’t follow too far behind, making it the most popular spoken foreign language under this list’s requirements.

Source: Thinkstock

34. North Dakota
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 7,272
> German-speaking population: 1.0%

Like in many other states with German as the most spoken foreign language, while only 1% of the population in North Dakota regularly speaks German in their households, a far larger share of the population, 30.5%, have German ancestry.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

35. Ohio
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 54,328
> German-speaking population: 0.5%

Surprise. Ohio also has a large population with German ancestry, 19% to be exact. Yet less than 1% currently speak the language at home. Regardless, it’s still the most commonly spoken foreign language, behind Spanish. Also, Cincinnati, Ohio holds a killer German Festival every September called the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. The event attracts up to 500,000 people each year.

Source: Thinkstock

36. Oklahoma
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 21,360
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.5%

The percentage of people who have Vietnamese ancestry and who speak the language at home in Oklahoma are actually the same, both 0.5%.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Wikimedia Commons

37. Oregon
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 21,998
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.5%

This vast, mountainous state has one of the most popular foreign languages nationwide as its top. The number of people who have ancestors from Vietnam is quite similar to the number of Vietnamese speakers in Oregon. There’s only a slight difference of about 1,000 people more who have ancestry but don’t currently speak the language at home.

38. Pennsylvania
> Most popular language: Chinese
> Residents who speak Chinese at home: 77,156
> Chinese-speaking population: 0.6%

Of the near 13 million people that populate Pennsylvania, close to 1% of the population have ancestors hailing from China.

Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

39. Rhode Island
> Most popular language: Portuguese
> Residents who speak Portuguese at home: 34,453
> Portuguese-speaking population: 3.3%

More than 7% of Rhode Island’s population has Portuguese ancestry, the highest share compared with all states. That’s quite a difference compared to the 3.3% who currently speak the language at home.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

40. South Carolina
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 12,974
> German-speaking population: 0.3%

German ancestry again far surpasses the number of people who actually speak the language in South Carolina. Approximately 7% of the population has ancestors from Germany, while only 0.3% speak German.

Source: Thinkstock

41. South Dakota
> Most popular language: Dakota
> Residents who speak Dakota at home: 11,438
> Dakota-speaking population: 1.3%

The most popular spoken foreign language in South Dakota after English and Spanish is Dakota. According to Travel South Dakota, “The people of the Oceti Sakowin call themselves Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, which are dialectic distinctions between three major divisions of the Great Sioux Nation.” In South Dakota, 4.2% of people have American Indian ancestry.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Thinkstock

42. Tennessee
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 24,175
> Arabic-speaking population: 0.4%

According to the American Arab Institute, “Contrary to popular assumptions or stereotypes, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens.” Just over 10,000 state residents are of Egyptian descent, the most frequently cited ancestry compared with other arabic-speaking countries and regions tracked by the Census for the state. As many as 40,000 residents claim Arab ancestry. Less than 25,000 Tennesseans speak Arabic at home.

Source: Lindsay Attaway / Flickr

43. Texas
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 204,122
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.7%

Texas is another state where the number of the Vietnamese speakers and the number of people who have ancestry are quite similar. While 227,078 have Vietnamese ancestry, 204,122 speak the language at home.

Source: Thinkstock

44. Utah
> Most popular language: Portuguese
> Residents who speak Portuguese at home: 9,022
> Portuguese-speaking population: 0.3%

With 250 million people speaking Portuguese, it is the seventh most popular spoken language in the world. Utah is one of three states that have Portuguese as the most common spoken foreign language.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Thinkstock

45. Vermont
> Most popular language: French
> Residents who speak French at home: 12,443
> French-speaking population: 2.0%

The French-speaking population in Vermont may only account for 2%, but the number of people who have French ancestry is four times higher with a total of 49,087 people.

46. Virginia
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 63,411
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.8%

Similar to the other states that have Vietnamese as the most popular spoken foreign language, the number of people who speak the language in Virginia versus the number of people who have ancestry is almost exactly equivalent. The difference is only 4,022 people, but both numbers are about 0.8% of the population.

[in-text-ad]

Source: Thinkstock

47. Washington
> Most popular language: Tagalog
> Residents who speak Tagalog at home: 62,201
> Tagalog-speaking population: 0.9%

The third and final state to have Tagalog as the most popular spoken foreign language is Washington, with almost 1% of the population speaking it at home. Close to 1.8 million U.S. residents speak Tagalog at home, making it one of the most commonly spoken foreign languages in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

48. West Virginia
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 4,934
> German-speaking population: 0.3%

About 13.3% of West Virginia’s population has German ancestry, which is an entire 13 percentage points higher than the percentage of people who speak German at home.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

49. Wisconsin
> Most popular language: Hmong
> Residents who speak Hmong at home: 45,776
> Hmong-speaking population: 0.8%

Wisconsin, like its fellow midwesterner Minnesota, has the most Hmong speakers above any other foreign language, aside from Spanish.

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Phillip Stewart / Flickr

50. Wyoming
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 1,643
> German-speaking population: 0.3%

Rounding up the pack is Wyoming, where 0.3% of the population speaks German at home, a huge difference from the 17.4% of the population who have (likely quite distant) German ancestry.

Methodology:

To determine the most commonly spoken foreign language in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey on languages spoken most often at home. We excluded Spanish, the most commonly spoken language in nearly every state after English, from our analysis. Also from the ACS, we considered data on the ancestry of state residents.