Special Report

The Most Commonly Spoken Foreign Language in Each State

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1. Alabama
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 10,866
> Arabic-speaking population: 0.2%

More than 10,000 residents in Alabama speak Arabic at home, making it the most commonly spoken foreign language other than Spanish. According to Census data, at least 5,000 people, or 0.10% of the state’s population, can trace their ancestry to Arabic-speaking countries. This means that double the number of residents who speak Arabic at home don’t share the ancestry. Despite Arabic being the most popular foreign language spoken in Alabama, only 0.2% of the population speak it.

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2. Alaska
> Most popular language: Aleut
> Residents who speak Aleut at home: 29,134
> Aleut-speaking population: 3.9%

More commonly known as Eskimo-Aleut languages, Alaska is the only state with this group of languages as the most commonly spoken languages, not counting English and Spanish. The Eskimo and Aleut are indigenous people native to some of the most northern parts of the globe.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Aleut has two dialects, and Eskimo consists of Yupik and Inuit, generally divided geographically. Yupik is spoken in Siberia and southwestern Alaska, and Inuit in northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Nearly 4% of Alaska residents speak one or more of the Eskimo-Aleut languages.

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3. Arizona
> Most popular language: Navajo
> Residents who speak Navajo at home: 85,707
> Navajo-speaking population: 1.2%

Arizona is one of two states where the leading foreign language, aside from Spanish, is Navajo. Those who identify as part of the Native American Navajo people are also referred to as the Diné, meaning “the People” or “children of the people.” The Navajo Nation stretches over 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In Arizona, 230,444 residents have Native American ancestry, and more than 85,700 people speak Navajo.

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4. Arkansas
> Most popular language: Marshallese
> Residents who speak Marshallese at home: 6,948
> Marshallese-speaking population: 0.2%

Arkansas is the only state with Marshallese as its most commonly spoken foreign language, aside from Spanish. Marshallese is the language spoken by those who are native to the Marshall Islands, which are located in the North Pacific. Ever since the 1980s, natives of the Marshall Islands, which had been a possession of the U.S., have migrated to Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains area, seeking greater opportunity. Today, 8,700 state residents have Marshallese ancestry, and 0.2% of the state population speaks Marshallese.

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5. California
> Most popular language: Tagalog
> Residents who speak Tagalog at home: 651,703
> Tagalog-speaking population: 1.7%

In California, 1.7% of the population speaks Tagalog, one of the languages spoken in the Philippines. The state is home to a large Filipino population — about 1.2 million residents have Filipino ancestry, or about 3.0% of the state’s population.