The Great Orange County Language Map: A Sea of Spanish, Little Saigon, and Where'd the Koreans Go?

There's a fancy interactive version just after the jump!
There's a fancy interactive version just after the jump!
Map by Charles Lam

Maps can tell you a lot about a place. Yes, they can tell you how to get somewhere, or what directions the streets run, but throw some data on a map, and they can tell you even more.

So, with that run-of-the-mill intro in mind, I present to you, gentle readers, the Great Orange County Language Map, a map of the second most spoken languages in Orange County by zip code.

Go ahead, click around and explore a little. You can click on individual zip codes, and the map will tell you what languages are most prevalent. Click where your house should be, and then tune in to the words after the map for some analysis. I'll wait...done? Okay, lemme get a Rainier, then...


[Charles' note: Before you check out the map. A quick legend: Each language is represented by a color -- green for Spanish, yellow for Vietnamese, red for Chinese, blue for Korean, taupe for Persian, black for Russian, and grey for English. If the color in the zip code is light, it means that the language is the second most spoken language in the zip code. If the color is darker, the language is the second most spoken language in the zip code AND less than 50 percent of the households speak English as a primary language. If you've already forgotten what color corresponds to what language, you can click on the little legend thing on the left. Using the legend you can even turn specific languages on and off, so you can see exactly what people are speaking where.]

Upcoming Events

Now, of course there are limitations with any kind of data visualization. You can read more about some of the limitations in Salon's post about maps, but for our map, you're not going to see a few of the smaller ethnic communities. Note the absence of Little Arabia or any Tagalog. It's not that they're not there, it's just that they exist in zip codes that are also full of other communities (there's over 40,000 Tagalog-speaking households in Orange County, after all).

With the in mind, what can we learn from this map? Many things, of course:

*The the most common second most-spoken language is Spanish (no surprise), the next is Vietnamese (also a no-brainer), but the third is actually English. There are enough Vietnamese and Spanish speaking households in Central County that English is the minority language between the 5 and 405 -- in fact, there's even a part of Garden Grove where English falls to the third most-spoken language behind a near-even mix of Vietnamese and Spanish.

*Persian has the same problem as Tagalog. It's the seventh most spoken language in Orange County, with approximately 30,000 speakers, but because they're so spread out, the language only shows up on the map twice -- both times in Newport -- despite sizable populations in South County, Anaheim and Irvine.

*Speaking of Garden Grove, it hosts one of the most even mixes of languages in Orange County, with a fair balance of Vietnamese, Spanish and English. That shouldn't be a surprise, Mexicans and Vietnamese get along pretty well--if you don't believe me, just visit any Vietnamese supermarket where you can spot Mexican stock boys hitting on Vietnamese cashiers all day long.

*Surprisingly missing from Garden Grove is Korean. Once the center of Korean life in Orange County, Garden Grove has seen its population of Koreans decreasing, as they leave Little Seoul for Cypress, Buena Park, Fullerton and Irvine.

*Irvine is unsurprisingly Orange County's Chinese center, and though there's a limitation to census data when it comes to Chinese -- people who specify Taiwanese, Cantonese or Mandarin don't factor in to the overall Chinese count -- Chinese's prevalence is still obvious. Hopefully the wave of new Taiwanese restaurants does well and stays open.

*Cambodian makes an appearance in a top-three list exactly once: in Santa Ana's 92701 ZIP code with a grand total of 250 speakers. ...Long Beach we are not.

Now for my last observation: SanTana. If you've ever been annoyed with the fact that our style guide generally dictates that Santa Ana be written as SanTana...tough tamales. That's how the locals pronounce it, and the majority of Santa Ana zip codes overwhelmingly speak Spanish, with most of them having over 80 percent of households speaking Spanish as a primary language.

You might see a mix of different people in downtown, sure, but Santa Ana still might as well be Mini Michoacán, or Wee Oaxaca, or Diminutive DF, or Giant-Not Guerrero...okay, maybe not the last one.

Anyhoo, enjoy!

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Email: Twitter: @charlesnam. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Upcoming Events

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >