Published On: Mon, Jun 6th, 2016

Arabic fastest growing language in American homes

Page from old arabic book

 

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 right-to-left script, the Pew Research Center reported Friday.

The number of people ages 5 and older who speak Arabic at home has grown by 29% between 2010 and 2014 to 1.1 million, making it the seventh most commonly spoken non-English language in the U.S. Meanwhile, the number who speak Spanish at home has grown only 6% over the same time period.

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 bureau identified about 1.9 million people with Arab ancestry living in the United States in 2014, but advocacy groups have suggested that the number may be much higher. Among those who speak Arabic at home, 38% were not proficient in English – that is, they report speaking English less than “very well.” This is comparable to the rate of English proficiency among the 39.3 million U.S. residents who speak Spanish at home. Some 42% of this group does not speak English very well, according to census data.

 

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