8 Facts About Asian Languages and Cultures for Asian Pacific Heritage Month

By United Language Group

It’s Asian-Pacific Heritage Month! This month, we honor the history and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

To celebrate, here are 8 facts about Asian languages and cultures that you might not have known.

The first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843.

He was a fisherman named Nakanohama Manjiro, also known as “John Mung” or “John Manjirō.” After his boat crashed during a fishing trip, American whalers rescued him. He learned English, and went west to California during the Gold Rush. Later, he studied military science in Europe and helped build the Japanese navy.

He was also a translator on Japan’s first screw-driven steam warship, the Kanrin Maru.

Almost 2/3 of the workers who completed the Transcontinental Railroad were Chinese.

The railroad was finished on May 10, 1869. That’s the other reason we celebrate Asian-Pacific Month in May.

Chinese railroad laborers worked in hazardous conditions for meager salaries. And their specialized skills made it possible to build on steep slopes.

More than 60% of the world lives in Asia.

Asia has a population of over 4,472,000,000 people. That’s over 60% of the world’s population. China is the world’s most populated country, followed closely by India.

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The first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843.

According to Census Bureau, the Asian population of the United States grew at a rate of 3.4 percent from 2014 to 2015. 21 million Asians now call the United States home.

Meanwhile, Asians and Pacific Islanders make up over 15 percent of the English language learner population in 17 states, according to the Office of English Language Acquisition [pdf].
Most Asian English language learners speak Chinese, followed by Vietnamese, Hmong and Urdu.

Hawaii is the only Asian-majority state.

Which makes sense, because it’s in Asia. But in Hawaii, some argue that the “Asian-Pacific Islander” category is too broad to be meaningful. For example, according to University of Hawaii ethnic studies professor Jonathan Okamura, “Talking about Asians as the fastest-growing group is meaningless.”

Instead, to understand the island’s population you have to look at specific groups, like Japanese or Filipinos.

And he’s right. In fact, that’s true everywhere – Asia is the world’s biggest continent. It’s silly to think you can lump all of its diverse languages and cultures into a single category.

The top 5 Asian languages in the United States are Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and Hindustani.

All together, they have a total of 8.04 million speakers.

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The ancient Chinese invented their own script independently, without any outside influence.

Ancient Chinese script existed at least as far back as 1200 BCE. And it may be even older than that. There are some examples of symbols carved into rocky cliffs and into ancient tortoise shells that go back to 6,000 BC.

However, opinions differ on whether these are actually examples of writing or not. If they are, they would be the earliest known examples of writing, 2000 years older than writing in Mesopotamia.

Moana is Disney’s first Pacific Islander “princess.”

The story was based on myths from the Pacific Islands. And this time, Disney carefully included Pacific Islanders in most of the major aspects of production, from writing and character design to music and acting.

The result? A celebration of Pacific Island culture that got rave reviews from critics and secured the second-highest Thanksgiving weekend opening of all time.

Learn more about the languages of the Pacific Islands here.

Asians and Pacific Islanders represent a significant, diverse and growing market. Want to reach them? You need native-speaking translators who understand the individual languages and cultures of the people you’re targeting.

Whether your goal is to connect with new customers or to effectively communicate with existing customers, VIA can help. Contact us today at 1-800- 737-8481 to learn more about our award-winning translation process and our expert translators.

Happy Asian-Pacific Heritage Month!

The top 5 Asian languages in the United States are Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and Hindustani.

All together, they have a total of 8.04 million speakers.

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