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Top 10 Languages of Iowa


While the official language of Iowa is English, many other languages are commonly spoken by residents. As with many states, Iowa is incredibly diverse. When people immigrate to Iowa from other countries, they classically bring their culture with them, as well as their language.

In many cases, the languages spoken in a state show both historical and modern immigration patterns in the area. Here’s a brief look at Iowa’s immigration history, as well as a list of the top ten languages of Iowa other than English.


Iowa Immigration History

Well before settlers began arriving in the United States, Iowa was home to indigenous peoples. Many of the Native Americans were forced out of the area during the 1830s and 1840s, though some were later moved to reservations.

Since Iowa is somewhat centrally located in the United States, many early immigrants and settlers didn’t head to Iowa initially. Instead, they shifted toward Iowa over time.

German settlers were one of the largest groups, both those who came from Germany and individuals of German descent. There are also large Amish communities in the area, some of which have been present since the mid-1800s.

Irish, British, and Dutch settlers also made their way into Iowa. Czech, Slovak, and Norwegian communities also developed, along with smaller amounts of Italians and Greeks.

In more recent times, immigrants from Southeast Asia became increasingly common. Additionally, Hispanic immigrants began arriving, including many Mexicans or Mexican Americans.

Overall, Africans and African Americans make up only a small part of the Iowa population. Slavery was made illegal in the area now known as Iowa as part of the Missouri Compromise, and many residents were part of the Underground Railroad. However, laws were in place that made Iowa inhospitable toward Africans and African-Americans, which limited their ability to move there easily.


Top 10 Languages of Iowa (Other Than English)

Iowa has an estimated 3.2 million residents. While the vast majority speak English, around 8.6 percent of residents (approximately 275,244 people) above the age of four speak a language other than English at home. Additionally, about 3 percent of the population (an estimated 96,015 people) is considered limited English proficiency (LEP).

Since that’s the case, many other languages are widely spoken by residents of Iowa. Here’s a brief overview of the top ten languages of Iowa, aside from English.

1. Spanish

As with many states in the US, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language in Iowa other than English. There are an estimated 121,749 speakers, which make up a little more than 4.12 percent of the population.

2. Chinese

While Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin) is the second most widely spoken language in Iowa, other than English, the number of speakers is far less than it is with Spanish. There are approximately 11,330 speakers, giving them a population share of a bit more than 0.38 percent.

3. German

With around 10,009 speakers, German comes in third on this list. Overall, German speakers make up just shy of 0.34 percent of Iowa’s population.

4. Arabic

Not far behind German is Arabic, with an estimated 9,952 speakers. That also gives them a population share of a little less than 0.34 percent.

5. Vietnamese

Vietnamese is spoken by approximately 9,162 residents of Iowa. As a result, they represent 0.31 percent of the population.

6. French

French (including Cajun) is spoken by about 8,256 Iowa residents, putting French speakers in sixth place on this list. Overall, that calculates out to nearly 0.28 percent of the population.

7. Serbo-Croatian

With a population share of about 0.25 percent, Serbo-Croatian is in seventh place in the list of the most widely spoken languages other than English in Iowa. In total, there are an estimated 7,455 Serbo-Croatian speakers in the state.

8. Thai, Lao, or Other Tai-Kadai Languages

Thai, Lao, and other Tai-Kadai languages are spoken by around 5,834 Iowa residents, resulting in a population share of nearly 0.20 percent.

9. Swahili or Other Languages of Central, Eastern, & Southern Africa

There are an estimated 5,445 speakers of Swahili and other languages of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa in Iowa, causing them to make up a bit more than 0.18 percent of the population.

10. Yiddish, Pennsylvania Dutch, or Other West Germanic Languages

Yiddish, Pennsylvania Dutch, and other West Germanic languages round out the top ten non-English languages of Iowa. With an estimated 5,371 speakers, they represent a hair more than 0.18 percent of the population.


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