Special Report

The Most Commonly Spoken Foreign Language in Each State

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

21. Massachusetts
> Most popular language: Portuguese
> Residents who speak Portuguese at home: 166,874
> Portuguese-speaking population: 2.5%

It’s fitting that the largest Portuguese festival in the world is held in the state that has the most Portuguese speakers. The whaling industry in the 19th century drew Portuguese sailors to Massachusetts from the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands.

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22. Michigan
> Most popular language: Arabic
> Residents who speak Arabic at home: 139,574
> Arabic-speaking population: 1.4%

Michigan is one of two states where Arabic is the leading spoken foreign language, aside from Spanish. There are about 140.000 state residents who speak the language, or 1.4% of Michigan’s population. Michigan is home to the largest share of residents with Lebanese and Iraqi ancestry, both of which are Arabic-speaking countries.

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23. Minnesota
> Most popular language: Hmong
> Residents who speak Hmong at home: 64,703
> Hmong-speaking population: 1.2%

The Hmong is an ethnic group living predominantly in China and Southeast Asia. They began coming to Minnesota in 1975 as refugees from war in Southeast Asia that destroyed their homes in Laos.

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24. Mississippi
> Most popular language: Vietnamese
> Residents who speak Vietnamese at home: 5,661
> Vietnamese-speaking population: 0.2%

Mississippi is one of nine states with Vietnamese as its most commonly spoken foreign language, aside from Spanish. Like many states along the Gulf Coast, Mississippi received immigrants from Vietnam after the war ended there more than four decades ago. Many Vietnamese immigrants opened shrimp-fishing businesses along the Gulf Coast.

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25. Missouri
> Most popular language: German
> Residents who speak German at home: 17,158
> Chinese-speaking population: 0.3%

Missouri is one of 12 states where German is the most commonly spoken foreign language. Germans began coming to Missouri in the 1820s and migration accelerated in the 1830s and 1840s. Germans located to St. Louis, where they founded some of America’s most famous breweries, and also the Missouri River valley.

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