Indeed, those who yearn to study multiple languages in the smallest geographic area need only take the San Gabriel River Freeway or Long Beach Freeway south of Los Angeles, exit at the Artesia Freeway and travel along Lakewood Boulevard. From that crossroads to the northeast lies Bellflower's 90706 ZIP Code area, where 38 languages are spoken. To the southwest, a scattering of Hmong speakers in the adjacent 90805 ZIP Code brings the language total to 39. The only census category missing is the catchall "other and unspecified."
U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, a Democrat, represents all of these language speakers and more. "The greatest asset is the diversity of the people," she says.
Pioneer Boulevard presents a facade typical of Sanchez's district, where Indian grocers, restaurant staff, jewelers and clothiers conduct business with customers who speak Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Urdu.
Crowding in near the South Asian outlets are businesses owned by immigrants from Vietnam, China, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines -- Chinese dumpling houses and Japanese tofu cafes, Vietnamese nail salons and Korean church supplies. Virtually everywhere, Spanish is spoken.
Descendants of Portuguese and Dutch immigrants, among the earliest settlers in Artesia, still define their presence with a few small bakeries and cafes.
At least 53 languages are spoken in the 30 schools of the ABC Unified School District, which covers Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens and parts of Lakewood and Norwalk, according to school board member Mark Pulido. Minority ethnic groups make up 88% of the district population, according to board figures.
"Artesia was always a multicultural community, although we didn't call it such, and I don't know if the community recognized it as such," said Veronica Bloomfield, president of the Artesia Historical Society, who has spent all of her 65 years in the city. "It's a microcosm of the United States, where there has been just waves of immigrants coming into communities."
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In Los Angeles County, a language other than English is spoken in most homes. Here are the top languages spoken in Southland area households:
*--* Number of Los Angeles County speakers Total 8,791,096 English 4,032,614 Spanish/Span. Creole 3,330,935 Chinese 287,724 Tagalog 195,671 Korean 165,158 Orange County Total 2,632,408 English 1,542,698 Spanish/Span. Creole 665,069 Vietnamese 124,539 Korean 50,366 Chinese 49,123 Riverside County Total 1,425,927 English 957,094 Spanish/Span. Creole 394,322 Tagalog 11,927 German 5,700 Vietnamese 5,623 San Bernardino County Total 1,568,725 English 1,035,292 Spanish/Span. Creole 434,445 Tagalog 17,139 Chinese 10,047 Vietnamese 9,501 Ventura County Total 697,367 English 467,351 Spanish/Span. Creole 182,412 Tagalog 10,563 Chinese 4,535 German 3,449
Sources: Modern Language Assn., U.S. Census 2000
Times Director of Computer Analysis Richard O'Reilly, data analyst Sandra Poindexter and researcher Maloy Moore contributed to this report.