Andrew Krug has sent me a link to this amazing census map from the MLA. Pick a language and find out where it’s spoken, in the US as a whole or in any state. You can zoom, have it show the data by county or by zip code, and play with it in other ways I haven’t tried yet. Enjoy!

Update (March 2020). I can’t find an archived version of that defunct map link, but it’s obsolete anyway: here’s the new one, “using data from the 2006–10 ACS, ACS 2005, and the 2000 US Census. Comparative tables and graphs provide a snapshot of changes between 2000 and 2010 in American language communities, showing speakers’ ages and ability to speak English.”


  1. Absolutely fascinating. And it sent me searching for “Tagalog”, listed as the fifth most common language in the US – maybe all your readers know what it is, but I sure didn’t.

  2. The most interesting thing for me is that the concentrations are almost all based on recent immigration, rather than early XXc immigration. For example, there are more concentrations of Scandinavian languages in LA than in Minnesota.
    No real surprise there, since there’s been several generations of assimilation.
    The Southeast (esp. SC and GA) is also notably lacking in Native American speakers. Jackson did a very good job.

  3. I don’t trust the stats. Where’s the Welsh-speaker I met in that Philly bar?

  4. He moved last month.

  5. Yeah. Only ASL isn’t included. Pissed me off.

  6. Ian Artaxias says

    It’s a very good framework but unfortunately the data may not be reliable.

    How accurate are the data?
    The Census 2000 data about language are based on sampling and may be somewhat different from data that would have been obtained if all the census respondents had been asked about their language use.

    These are not hard numbers from a mandatory census forms. As far as Armenian language is concerned, there are over 250,000 Armenians currently residing in Greater Los-Angeles area maybe even more. From my experience, 90 to 95 percent of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants who make up the overwhelming majority of the demographic are fluent in their native tongue. And this is just Los-Angeles vicinity. When other states are figured into the equation, you’d get a number which is 3 times as high as current results.
    There is also the 3rd language which plays a role in skewing the percentages. For example, those Armenians who migrated to US in 70’s through 80’s from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, et al, are likely to be fluent in Arabic or Persian. Naturally, having lived in those countries for 2 or more generations, they tend to list aforementioned languages as their second, regardless of national ties and motivations. There is a degree of assimilation, which plays a role.
    On the other hand, you have those who relocated from the Republic of Armenia or other former Soviet republics. Azerbaijan and Russia are high up on that list. Naturally, those who come directly from Armenia list the second language accordingly. But anything else will give you a 50/50 split between Russian and Armenian when questionnaires are concerned.
    What I’m implying is that data presented on the MLA site is two-dimensional and should be taken with a grain of salt. If I were personally invested in other communities, perhaps I could maintain that Hebrew or Korean languages had a bigger/smaller spread than presented by the map, but I stick to what I know.

  7. A surprise for me is that “all languages other than English combined” is high throughout North Carolina. Why?

  8. I have provided an update with a link to the newer version of this excellent map.

  9. The link above “View the Map” is dead, so I don’t know what the map is like, but I would imagine it’s probably similar to this one for Canada.

  10. The link above “View the Map” is dead

    Not for me it isn’t; I just tried it and it worked.

  11. Turns out I have to open it in a different browser. Whoops!

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