Last month, I wrote about the fun and the pitfalls of viral maps, a feature that included 88 super-simple maps of my own creation. As a follow-up, I'm writing up short items on some of those maps, walking through how I created them and how they succumb (and hopefully overcome) the shortfalls of viral cartography.
One of the most interesting data sets for aspiring mapmakers is the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Among other things, that survey includes a detailed look at the languages spoken in American homes.
OK, that map is not too interesting. Now, let's remove Spanish from the mix.
Given these new parameters, we now see a pair of Native American languages, Navajo and Dakota, on the map. Navajo is the most prevalent Native American language, with more than 170,000 speakers, while Dakota lags behind with just 18,000. According to the census, there are more speakers of Navajo in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona than there are speakers of other Native American languages in all other states combined.*
Here are a couple more language groups of interest. First, the Scandinavians. The census categorizes Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian as Scandinavian languages.
Next up, Indo-Aryan languages. For the purposes of this map, we consider Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali, Panjabi, Marathi, Nepali, and Sinhalese to fall into that category.
Finally, African languages. The choices here are Amharic, Berber, Chadic, Cushite, Sudanic, Nilotic, Nilo-hamitic, Nubian, Saharan, Khoisan, Swahili, Bantu, Mande, Fulani, Gur, Efik, Mbum, as well as "Kru, Ibo, Yoruba," which the census lists as a single language.
See more of Slate's maps.
Correction, May 13, 2014: This article originally misspelled Arapaho in the map of most commonly spoken Native American languages. (Return.)