Languages Across the United States

Languages States--Languages (1)Generally you think of everyone speaking English in the United States, in the past and today. If you had ancestors coming from Italy at the beginning of the 20th Century, they may have never learned English and only their children or grandchildren were the first to speak English and also know and understand Italian.

This same situation happened for decades. Another example were many German immigrants who came to America, moved to Michigan in the 1850s. Several generations, well into the 20th century, spoke primarily German and little or no English. Even many of the rural schools were only taught in German.

Languages States--Languages (2)

Going back further, the Germans, many times referred to a ‘Pennsylvanian Dutch’ but who were really Germans, used that languages in America since the early 1700s and into the late 19th century. That is found clearly in that most of their documents (Wills, receipts) along with information on the headstones were in German.

The maps of languages today, compiled by the US Census Bureau through the ACS (American Community Survey) show quite a variety of languages. Not surprising, is to see Spanish as the most common language after English in most States. However, there other states like North Dakota with German as a popular language still today. Then French spoken in the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The influence there is the French Canadians on the border of those states. Looking at Hawaii, it is Tagalog (originally a language from the Philippine Islands) and in Alaska it is Yupik (a Native Indian language).

After Spanish and English, you will see greater variety of languages. In the state of Virginia it is the Korean language due to the many immigrates from South Korean who have settled there over the recent decades. Go to the northwest corner to the State of Washington, it is Vietnamese language, which is also in Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. Nearby in new Mexico and Arizona is the native American language of Navajo and to the north of Nebraska in South Dakota is the Dakota Native Indian language.

Languages States--Languages (3)

In putting together your family history, the language(s) spoken by family members is an important aspect to its history. Even if no one in the family spoke another language other than English, they would have been around their neighbors who did speak other languages.

You can break the languages into regions, such as the Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian). Here the Census Bureau found the Swedish language in the majority of states, from Maine to Oregon to Mississippi to Kansas.

Another region of languages are those from South Asia which would include Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Marathi and Bengali.

The site on maps of languages is interesting to review and just might give you some insight to languages used frequently in your ancestral home state.


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