When I was working at FEMA, we were trying to get language data from the US Census to overlay onto the Emergency Management GIS applications. FEMA Teams would go into areas unknowing what languages folks spoke, which, of course, caused problems.
Well, last week the Census just released a new mapping application that maps languages spoken and it is awesome. The mapping data randomly places a dot for every 75 people (or so) that speaks a language you select, providing a geographic representation of where different languages are spoken in your community. It’s best used to understand the distribution of language spoken at a county level, good stuff to include in your Emergency Management GIS operations. Understanding actual counts is more problematic unless you use a geography of a county or greater.
The data comes from the 2011 American Community Survey. If you do download the data for your community, beware that values under 200 are suspect due to weighted averaging on a limited sample size.
Still, if you are a County Emergency Manager, this tool gives you approximate numbers of different languages that you can expect to encounter during an emergency operation. We are now investigating how language data can be incorporated into our disaster assessment mobile application to help damage assessment teams better understand the languages spoken in different neighborhoods.