The always-interesting American Community Survey offers surprising insights into the ethnic affiliations of Pacific Northwest residents by looking at what languages other than English we speak at home. Slate’s Ben Blatt prepared a set of interesting maps – tinyurl.com/lkzlz4s – illustrating these findings.

To nobody’s surprise, Spanish is the most common language other than English in Oregon and Washington, as well as in most other states. The interesting exceptions are German in North Dakota, French in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Louisiana, Yupik in Alaska and Tagalog (Filipino) in Hawaii. Seeing the U.S. map with Spanish so widespread re-enforces the validity of teaching Spanish in school and aiding the integration of Spanish-speaking people into our English-oriented society and economy.

Beyond Spanish, most Oregonians will doubtless be surprised to learn Russian is the state’s third most common language – making us unique in that regard in the U.S. Nearly 21,000 Oregonians speak Russian. In Washington state, Vietnamese is the second runner-up to English, a trait the state shares with Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Sahaptian, which most of us have never heard of, is the most common Native American language in both Oregon and Washington. This is the official name of the language used by native speakers on the Warm Springs Reservation and among the Umatilla, among others.

Swedish is, by far, the most commonly spoken Scandinavian language in Oregon, compared to Norwegian leading in Washington state. The Census Bureau doesn’t consider Finnish to be Scandinavian, but it just beats out Norwegian in Oregon, with 692 Finn speakers to 691 Norse.

Cushite is Oregon’s most common African language – being the native tongue in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Somalia.

All this is a refreshing reminder that we live in a diverse and welcoming culture.

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