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Tagalog Is the Third Most Widely Spoken Language in Three U.S. States

And Ilocano is the third most commonly used language in Hawaii.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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It’s common knowledge that there are a lot of Filipinos in the U.S., what with the close historical ties between our two countries. But nothing drives this point home quite like this map, which reveals Tagalog as the third most widely spoken language in New Jersey, Nevada, and California.

The map also shows that Ilocano is the third most commonly used language in Hawaii. This is probably because of the state’s large population of Filipinos descended from the sakadas—laborers hired by the Hawaii Sugar Planters’ Association to work the plantations in the early 1900s. According to Belinda Aquino, emeritus professor of Political Science and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, 62 percent of the Filipinos recruited between 1916 and 1928 were Ilocano

The map was created by The Business Insider, who looked at 2018 American Community Survey data to see which languages were the most popular in each state, after English and Spanish. They made a similar map in 2019 using 2017 data. It shows that the most popular language in New Jersey was Gujarati before it was overtaken by Tagalog the following year.

An earlier report using surveys from 2012 to 2016 shows that Chinese was the third most popular language in California and New Jersey, followed by Tagalog. The article also lumped Ilocano together with other Austronesian languages as the second most commonly spoken tongue in Hawaii, with Tagalog as the third most popular language.

Surprisingly, Tagalog was also the fourth most popular language in Alaska during this period. One might not think there would be that many Filipinos living in one of the coldest places on earth. But apparently Filipinos have been working in Alaska since the 1700s—first on exploratory and fur trading ships, then in canneries during the 1920s and 1930s. These cannery workers became known as Alaskeros. According to the South China Morning Post, as of 2017, there were over 30,000 Filipinos in Alaska, making them the largest immigrant minority in the state.

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All these reports consistently indicate Tagalog as the third most popular language in Nevada from 2012 to 2018. The state is popular among Filipino Americans for its lower cost of living, lower taxes, and warm climate.

These maps paint a picture of America as a diverse nation made up of immigrants from all over the world. But they also hint at the history of Filipinos who left their motherland in search of a better life.

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