Plaza Voices: And third place goes to...
Ben Blatt, a staff writer at Slate, has spent the last little while creating “viral maps” and writing articles about them online. Now, you may have never heard the term “viral map,” but if you spend any time on social media sites, you must have seen at least one of these fascinating and entertaining maps.
In one of Blatt’s most recent maps, titled “Most Common Spoken Language Other than English or Spanish,” he shows us –wait for it– the most commonly spoken languages other than English or Spanish by U.S. state. According to this map, Colorado’s third most spoken language is none other than German, which might come as a surprise depending on where you live in the state.
Blatt's map is based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS), a continual survey conducted by the U.S. Census bureau. The ACS randomly samples addresses in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, gathering data on demographic information such as age, race, income, family status, language, and so on. In this Slate article Blatt links to the raw data he used to create the map and discusses how that data is collected. In answering the question, "What language do you speak at home?" respondents don't pick their language from a list--instead, they have a box where they write it in. And according to the results, German is the language spoken at home by an estimated 29,255 Coloradans--well ahead of Vietnamese (18,275), Russian (15,298), or Chinese (16,336). So even though we in Denver might know many more Vietnamese-speakers than German-speakers, the data shows they are probably out there somewhere.
And that's what makes these sorts of maps so fun, head-scratching, and interesting. If we were to ask ten people, “What do you think the third most spoken language in Colorado is?” we could easily get ten different answers. I could swear all day long and twice on Sunday that the third most spoken language in Colorado is Vurubian, because many of my neighbors are from Vuru, but the truth of the matter is that would not stand up to any level of statistical scrutiny. Living in a predominately Vurubian neighborhood does, unfortunately, paint me an incomplete picture.
So what language do you speak at home? What language would you think is the most common in your neighborhood, city, or home state? Would it be Arabic (8,449), or Tagalog (7,392)? Would you have guessed French (a whopping 17, 837)? Let us know what you think!
--With Dario T.