June 3, 2016, "This is the fastest growing language in American homes," NY Post, Laura Italiano
"Arabic is the fastest-growing language in American households — and
that’s leading the US Census Bureau to explore the tricky task of
adjusting its questionnaires to accommodate the language’s
The bureau is using focus groups to explore possible changes to the
2020 census questionnaires for Arabic speakers who are not
English-proficient, the Pew Research Center reported Friday.
Arabic is now the seventh-most commonly spoken non-English language
in US households. An estimated 1.1 million people ages 5 and older speak
Arabic at home, an increase of 29 percent between 2010 and 2014.
The number who speak Spanish at home has grown only 6 percent during the same period.
Of those who speak Arabic at home, 38 percent are not proficient in English, according to census estimates.
That’s just below the 42 percent English-proficiency rate among the 39.3 million US residents who speak Spanish at home.
The growth in Arabic is linked to continued immigration from Middle
Eastern and North African countries, according to the Pew Research
Possible changes to the census questionnaire include replacing the
blocks for individual printed letters with a single open-field
rectangle, so that answers can be written in connected Arabic script,
the center said.
One major challenge facing census officials is whether to require a response in English and when to allow an Arabic response.
A focus-group study recommended that the address fields require
people to use English, because an American address might not be
accurately translated into Arabic, according to the Pew Research Center.
Arabic names present another complication — as they can be
transliterated into English in different ways because the letters of the
Arabic alphabet don’t necessarily have direct English equivalents.
For example, the Arabic name Hussein can be transliterated into
English at least five additional ways: Hussain, Husein, Husain, Houssain
Chart above from Pew Research
6/3/16, "The challenges of translating the U.S. census questionnaire into Arabic," Pew Research, Anna Brown
"In 2020, census questionnaires may for the first time be offered in Arabic, now the fastest-growing language in the U.S. However, the Census
Bureau faces a challenge not only in translating the language but also
in adjusting the appearance of the questionnaire for those accustomed to
reading and writing Arabic script....
The growth in Arabic language use is tied to continued immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the growing U.S. Muslim population. The increasing presence of this group is one reason the Census Bureau may add a Middle East/North Africa category
to the 2020 census form as part of major changes being considered to
questions about race and ethnicity. In 2010, the Census Bureau offered
an Arabic language assistance guide to help Arabic speakers fill out an English-language questionnaire....
The new Arabic translation comes along with many other proposed changes
to the 2020 census. One change that is certain: The Census Bureau hopes
to count most American households online
for the first time, rather than using only paper questionnaires. The
bureau is testing a number of other changes to the questionnaire, such
as using administrative data from other government agencies to fill in missing data on people who don’t fill out their census forms and revising the race and ethnicity questions."