Every year, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month falls in May. It is chosen to honor the heritage of Asian Pacific Islanders since 1992. Now let’s take this chance to not only celebrate, but also learn something about Asian and Pacific Americans as well as their languages!
Why May? 2 Essential Dates
You may ask, why May?
In short, it’s because of two key dates: May 7 and May 10. May 7, 1843 marked the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. May 10, 1869, or Golden Spike Day, recognized the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S., in which Chinese workers made significant contributions.
This year’s AAPI heritage month theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration,” which builds on a leadership advancement theme series that began last year. You can further learn about the theme from AAPI official website.
Now let’s take a look at some key facts about Asian and Pacific Americans and the languages they speak!
Facts about Asian and Pacific Americans
Asian Americans are U.S. citizens of Asian ancestry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently about 22 million Asian Americans in the United States, representing about 7 percent of the population. Chinese are the most populous group of Asian immigrants, with a population of nearly 5 million, followed by Indians and Filipinos with approximately 4.3 million and 4 million people respectively.
The term “Asian American” first appeared in 1968 and was first used by graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley as the name of an organization that united Chinese Americans, Koreans, Japanese and Filipinos to fight for their rights in political and social movements.
Most Popular Asian and Pacific Languages to Learn
Chinese is the 3rd most common foreign language spoken in the United States, with nearly 5 million speakers. Chinese is spoken here not only in Mandarin, but also in a variety of dialects. Interestingly, many dialects of Chinese are not interchangeable.
In China, the most widely spoken Chinese language is Mandarin. However, in the United States, Cantonese and Minnan are just as widely spoken as Mandarin. Chinese speaking communities are concentrated in California and New York.
Hindi is one of the official languages of India, the world’s second most populous country, but due to India’s ethnic culture, not all Indians speak Hindi. Hindi is also an important minority language in Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the latest census data, Hindi has become the largest Indian language in the United States, with nearly 6.5 million people speaking it.
According to Duolingo’s statistics, Japanese is the most popular Asian language and 3rd most popular foreign language to learn for young people in the United States. In recent years, the popularity of Japanese culture products has attracted many young people, especially Gen Z, to learn this language. Learning Japanese is also a gateway to many other Asian languages like Chinese since they share many vocabulary and grammar rules.
According to Statista, the number of Vietnamese speakers in the United States is 1.5 million, or about 3 percent of all immigrants in the United States. The Vietnamese immigrant population is the fourth largest Asian immigrant group in the U.S., behind India, China (including Hong Kong) and the Philippines.
Korean is the official language of North and South Korea, and is spoken as a first language by approximately 80 million people worldwide. In the United States, approximately 1.1 million people speak Korean. There are thriving Korean communities in many major cities in the United States. Korean is one of the 15 most spoken non-English languages in every state.
Tagalog is spoken by more than 50 million Filipinos in the Philippines and by 24 million speakers worldwide. It is well known that there are many Filipinos in the United States, which has to do with the historical ties between the two countries. Tagalog is the third most popular language in California and the states of Nevada and Washington.
Major differences between Asian languages and Roman Languages
In this part, we’ll introduce some major differences between Asian and Roman languages, aka the key points you need to note when first learning Asian languages.
In Roman languages, words are written and pronounced in the same way, while Asian languages such as Chinese, Korean and Japanese are pronounced with the Latin alphabet as the modern standard pronunciation, but the writing often uses a different system.
I love you.
(In French) Je t’aime.
(In Chinese) 我爱你。（wǒ ài nǐ)
(In Korean) 사랑해요. (sa rang hae yo)
(In Japanese) 愛 し て いる。 (Ai shiteru)
In Roman languages, verbs change with the subject and tense.
Je suis Américain.( I am American.)
Tu es Américain. ( You are American.)
However, in Asian languages, the verb is not changed.
我是中国人。( I am Chinese.)
你是中国人。( You are Chinese.)
In most Roman languages, the order of sentences is subject + verb + object.
Je vais à l’école. (I will go to school.)
However, in Asian languages, the order of sentences may be different.
네가 학교에 간다.
(If you break up the sentences, it’s I + school + go, but when put together, it means I’m going to school.)
How to Learn (Asian) languages by yourself
Use various web resources
We live in an age of advanced information on the Internet, and learning a language is not as difficult as it once was! Learn to take advantage of the wealth of online language learning resources. For example, Youtube, Podcasts, etc. are your best choices for free learning!
Watch foreign language movies or TV series
This is also a great way to learn a foreign language! When you are watching a movie or TV show in a foreign language, try to imitate the main character’s speech. It’s good for you to practice your pronunciation and conversation skills!
Many language learning programs now offer a wealth of learning resources, such as LingoDeer, which offers over 10 languages to learn! It focuses on working on your vocabulary and grammar in the form of conversations and game quizzes. It also offers a lot of practical language learning for life and travel. With your phone or computer, you can simply start learning a new language anytime and anywhere!