In Washington, English is the most widely spoken language by a significant margin. However, that doesn’t mean many residents don’t use other languages. Washington has an incredibly diverse population, and as a result, a broad array of languages are spoken by residents.
Generally, Washington’s immigration and migration history plays a significant role in the languages spoken by residents. With that in mind, here’s an overview of the immigration history of Washington, as well as the top ten languages of Washington (not including English).
Washington Immigration History
Before the arrival of Europeans, Washington was home to indigenous people. While the arrival of immigrants impacted their numbers, Washington is among the top ten states when it comes to the number of Native American residents today.
However, the bulk of the population consists of people of European ancestry, with about four-fifths of the population falling in that category. Immigrants and migrants from various states (particularly people of Germanic and Scandinavian ancestry coming from the Midwest) began occupying the region during the 1840s, and the population grew – albeit slowly – as it reached statehood. However, the discovery of gold in the Yukon and Alaska dramatically increased interest in the region, leading to a population boom.
Until World War II, the state’s population was approximately 98 percent white, with small percentages of residents being Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese, as well as Native American. After the start of WWII, the numbers began shifting. African Americans arrived from some southern states, and a more significant number of immigrants from a variety of nations started coming.
During the late 20th century, the number of Asian and Hispanic immigrants grew dramatically. African immigrants also came to the region, though in smaller numbers. However, the end result is a highly diverse state.
Top 10 Languages of Washington (Other Than English)
Washington has an estimated 7.79 million residents. While the bulk of Washingtonians speak English, approximately 20.3 percent of persons over the age of four (about 1.58 million people) speak a language other than English when at home. Additionally, 7.84 percent of the state’s population (approximately 610,406 residents) have limited English proficiency (LEP).
Since Washington is a diverse state, that means a wide variety of languages are commonly used by residents. Here’s a look at the top ten languages of Washington (not including English).
In Washington, Spanish is by far the most widely spoken non-English language. An estimated 620,206 Washingtonians speak Spanish, giving them a population share of a little more than 8.65 percent.
Washington is home to a significant number of Chinese speakers. In total, approximately 123,749 residents speak Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin), resulting in a population share of nearly 1.77 percent.
An estimated 67,154 Washingtonians speak Vietnamese. As a result, Vietnamese speakers make up about 0.94 percent of the population.
Tagalog (including Filipino) is the fourth most widely spoken non-English language in Washington. Around 63,151 residents speak Vietnamese, leading to a population share a bit above 0.88 percent.
In Washington, approximately 61,502 residents speak Russian. That means Russian speakers make up nearly 0.86 percent of the population.
The sixth most widely spoken non-English language in Washington is Korean. With an estimated 50,061 speakers, these residents represent nearly 0.70 percent of the population.
7. Amharic, Somali, or Other Afro-Asiatic Languages
Amharic, Somali, and other Afro-Asiatic languages are spoken by about 40,012 Washingtonians. That gives them a population share close to 0.56 percent.
In Washington, around 34,000 residents speak Hindi. In turn, that means Hindi speakers make up a little more than 0.47 percent of the population.
Ilocano, Samoan, Hawaiian, and other Austronesian languages are spoken by an estimated 32,298 Washington residents. That leads to a population share of about 0.45 percent.
10. Ukrainian or Other Slavic Languages
Among Washington residents, approximately 31,819 speak Ukrainian and other Slavic languages. That means a little more than 0.44 percent of residents speak them.
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