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News / City Life

Map shows the astounding number of languages spoken in Queens

Map shows the astounding number of languages spoken in Queens
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jacques Lebleu

As anyone who's even been on the 7 train—the MTA's so-called "international express"—can tell you, Queens is diverse. In fact, there's nowhere in the world with as many languages as the largest borough in a city of 800 languages, according to the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA).

To help distinguish your Tagalog from your Telugu, the ELA has spent the past six years developing an annotated map of the world's languages capital, which is featured in the book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, who argue: "The capital of linguistic diversity, not just for the five boroughs, but for the human species, is Queens."

Beyond Corona's Spanish dialects and Flushing's Chinese variations, the map gets into the nitty gritty of local languages, like how early hip-hop from Hollis helped spread African-America English around the world. It also offers examples of language communities thriving in New York even more than in their homelands—like pockets of Ridgewood preserving strains of Italian that are going extinct in Europe thanks to standardization of the language, and the neighboring religious group that keeps Coptic, a descendent of the language of the pharaohs, alive. 

 

Queens language map from "Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas" by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
Cartography: Molly Roy; Photographs: Mirissa Neff

 

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