Mapping the diaspora: The world in my own backyard

Part of my job is going to events to chat with constituents, present certificates of recognition, and basically be out and about. Last Saturday, I covered four events that sort of sum up in a single day the demographics of my new home.
I started out at an elementary school jog-a-thon where I chatted with the primarily Latino parents in a mix of Spanish and English. Then I swung by a Women’s Club event populated largely by elderly white women, went over to West Covina for the Cherry Blossom Festival where I enjoyed a beautiful Japanese tea ceremony. Then I wrapped up the day with some chow mein and fried rice at a ribbon cutting for a business simultaneously opening offices in San Marino and Shanghai.
The area my office covers is about 65% Latino and 20% Asian. The lunch options around my office include sushi and teriyaki bowls, Hawaiian food, Chinese food, pastrami sandwiches, Subway, Mexican food from multiple regions, hamburgers and BBQ. Everyone in my office is bilingual.
I was looking for some statistics on English Learners when I came across this sort of extraordinary list of languages spoken by students in California.

I made an attempt to map the languages, but it was difficult since many of the languages are spoken in various countries – Arabic, for instance. I had to lop off the most widely spoken languages or there was no gradation. The top languages spoken by California students:

 Spanish 1,320,981
 Vietnamese 34,712
 Filipino (Pilipino or Tag 22,389
 Cantonese 21,551
 Hmong 19,715
 Korean 16,799
 Mandarin (Putonghua) 12,918


*Check out the complete spreadsheet this map is based upon here.

I was blown away by the number of Spanish-speakers, but more than anything, I was fascinated by the obscure languages. Several I had never even heard of like Assyrian, Cebuano or Chamorro. It reminded me of when I came across this abbreviated list of indigenous languages spoken in Mexico maintained by the Mexican government

Well, I’ve got lots of exploring to do in my new neighborhood – Salvadoran pupusas and Vietnamese pho are up next.


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