U.S. Census Will Collect Responses In 7 New Languages Including Arabic And Japanese

For the 2020 census, the federal government will — for the first time — be collecting census responses in Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Tagalog, NPR reported on Sunday.

The addition of seven new language options means U.S. residents will have a total of 13 languages to choose from when answering census questions next year. Paper forms will only be available in English and Spanish, NPR noted, but responses can be provided online or by phone in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese or the seven new language options listed above.

The Census Bureau said it will also be providing video and printed guides in 59 non-English languages, as well as a video guide in American Sign Language and printed guides in braille and large print. 

Advocates for minority groups have lauded the government’s efforts to make the census ― which, as mandated by the Consitution, is undertaken every 10 years ― more accessible to all communities. 

“This is very encouraging,” tweeted Michigan State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D). 

Rawaa Nancy Albilal, president of the Arab-American Family Support Center in New York City, told NPR that the changes were a “huge step in the right direction.” 

Albilal warned, however, that undercounting of some “immigrant communities of Arab, Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian descent” could still be rife because of a lack of reliable internet access among those populations. 

Daniel Ichinose, an advocate for Asian American rights, echoed this sentiment. 

“Some of what we’ve learned from message-testing efforts is that our communities will be disproportionately relying on paper rather than online forms,” Ichinose, a director of the Demographic Research Project at the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles, told NBC News last month. “So that’s a very big concern for our communities.”

Another concern for Asian Americans and other minority groups is whether next year’s census will include a controversial question about citizenship that the Trump administration has attempted to add to the questionnaire.

“Depending on where people are coming from, they’re used to lots of government overreach and oversight and so are really sensitive to answering questions like that,” Dorsey Vinton, CEO of the Asian Community and Cultural Center in Nebraska, told NBC.

Two federal judges blocked the inclusion of the question ― “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” ― in the 2020 census. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue later this month.

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