By Kimberly J. Avalos
By Kimberly J. Avalos
Rabat – Arabic is the fastest growing language in the United States, standing now as the seventh most commonly spoken non-English language in the U.S., according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.
The number of Arabic speakers ages 5 and older grew by 29 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the study, which used data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“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 study said, which also noted that the number of people who speak Spanish at home has only grown 6 percent during that same time period.
As a result, census questionnaires may be available in Arabic for the first time in 2020, Pew reports.
“The Census Bureau has already conducted some research on what it would take to implement the new questionnaire and has made some recommendations,” the study said.
However, no final decision has been made on the changes, nor on whether the questionnaire will definitely be translated into Arabic, according to Pew.
The Census Bureau faces challenges outside simply translating the language; they would also have to adjust the appearance of the questionnaire for those accustomed to reading and writing Arabic script, Pew reports.
For example, Arabic is read from right to left and type is aligned to the right margin, contrary to how English is read from left to right and type is aligned to the left. Certain census questions may also require responses to be written in English to avoid translation problems, such as addresses.
“Among those who speak Arabic at home, 38% were not proficient in English—that is, they report speaking English less than ‘very well,’” the study said, adding that this percentage is similar to the 42 percent of people who speak Spanish at home who are not proficient in English.
Because of this group’s growing presence, the Census Bureau may also 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,” the study said.