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Top 10 Languages of South Dakota


In South Dakota, English is the language most widely spoken by residents. However, that doesn’t mean others aren’t used on a relatively broad basis. South Dakota has a surprisingly diverse population, including indigenous people and immigrants who often speak their native languages.

Often, it’s easier to see how various languages made their way into a state by examining its immigration history. With that in mind, here is a look at the immigration history of South Dakota and an overview of the top ten languages of South Dakota, not including English.


South Dakota Immigration History

Before settlers and immigrants began arriving, South Dakota was home to indigenous people. As immigrants began arriving in the Northeastern United States, Native Americans from that region began shifting into the area now known as South Dakota. During the 1740s, that included members of 13 Sioux tribes. The Yanktonais and Lakota also found homes in South Dakota.

Some of the earliest Europeans to arrive were the British and French, many of home can in as fur traders. However, settlers from Eastern parts of the US also migrated toward South Dakota, altering the mix. Germans became more common over time, as well as people of Scandinavian ancestry. Bohemians, Dutch, Finnish, and Welsh also began moving into the state.

Over time, immigrants began arriving from other parts of the world. Hispanics and Asians – as well as a broader mix of Europeans – came to South Dakota in larger numbers. During the 21st century, there was also a larger number of Middle Eastern and African immigrants, leading to greater diversity.


Top 10 Languages of South Dakota (Other Than English)

An estimated 909,824 people call the state of South Dakota home. While the vast majority of residents speak English, either as their primary or a secondary language, that doesn’t mean other languages are commonly used by South Dakotans.

Overall, 6.4 percent of people above the age of 4 (around 58,229 residents) speak a language other than English while at home. Additionally, 2.14 percent of the South Dakota population (approximately 19,470 residents) is classified as having limited English proficiency.

Since that’s the case, many languages are used by the residents of the state. Here’s an overview of the top ten languages of South Dakota, not including English.

1. Spanish

As is true in the vast majority of states, Spanish is the most widely used non-English language in South Dakota. There are an estimated 17,587 Spanish speakers in the state, giving them a population share of nearly 2.15 percent.

2. Other Native American Languages

While Native American languages like Navajo are calculated separately, some are functionally lumped together during government analyses, creating the category of other Native American languages. In South Dakota, an estimated 9,475 people speak Native American languages that aren’t calculated individually, leading to a population share of almost 1.16 percent.

3. German

In South Dakota, about 5,128 residents speak German. As a result, they make up a little less than 0.63 percent of the population.

4. Amharic, Somali, or Other Afro-Asiatic Languages

Amharic, Somali, and other Afro-Asiatic languages are spoken by around 2,668 South Dakotans. That gives them a population share of nearly 0.33 percent.

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

Approximately 2,619 residents of South Dakota speak Swahili and other languages of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. These speakers make up about 0.32 percent of the state’s population.

6. Nepali, Marathi, or Other Indic Languages

Nepali, Marathi, and other Indic languages are used by about 1,415 South Dakota residents. That leads to a population share of a little more than 0.17 percent.

7. Russian

An estimated 1,262 South Dakota residents speak Russian. As a result, Russian speakers make up a bit more than 0.15 percent of the population.

8. Chinese

Around 1,175 South Dakotans speak Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin). Based on that, they have a population share of a little above 0.14 percent.

9. French

French (including Cajun) is spoken by approximately 1,174 South Dakotas. As a result, these residents make up an estimated 0.14 percent of the state’s population.

10. Tagalog

In South Dakota, around 1,128 people speak Tagalog (including Filipino). That calculates out to a population share of a little less than 0.14 percent.


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