Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Census: language and ethnicity

The local paper is running a piece this morning called:
Are you ready for the census? | ¿Está usted listo para el censo?
It starts out, appropriately enough, with a note about language:

You can pick from six languages to fill out your census form next week, and assistance will be available whether your mother tongue is Albanian, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch or any of 55 other languages.

… Almost all Wisconsin residences will receive the English version, although bilingual forms are sent to places with high concentrations of Spanish speakers.

Places where census forms are available "will be stocked with additional census forms in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese."

While the results of the census, maybe especially with regard to language, will offer real difficulties of interpretation, people interested in patterns of language use are eager to see the results. Others, though, may not welcome the process or the results.

US English actually has a link indicating that they talk about the issue of census forms in Spanish, but it doesn't really address the point very directly. It simply argues, like all of their stuff, that the government should use English and push immigrants to learn it, but it doesn't directly argue, in the sound clip I heard, that we don't need to gather data from those people who don't know English. They will surely exploit whatever results they can to argue for a need to make English the official language of the country. And right now this is, what, national priority number 8,383,094 these days?

The census is no doubt a bigger deal to the American Racists and Bigots Council (ARBC). According to America's finest news source, The Onion, has a piece in its paper edition (still available free in Madison) called this:
Racial slur development not keeping pace with mixed-race births, nation's bigots report
The ARBC's chairman, Tom Branson, says "The world is changing, and we, the hateful and ignorant of America, need to change with it." The article isn't on-line yet, but it will be. Keep an eye out for it.

While we're at it, the print edition also has a little 'weather' thing on page 1. This week's forecast plays on all the snowmageddon and snowpocalypse stuff: "Snowvalanch warning." Could we add some Homeric infixation and have a snowvamalanch?


The Ridger, FCD said...

Reminds me of the Monty Python bit about trying to find a derogatory term for Belgium.

Also, I'll bet US English is waiting to use the info to argue too many people don't speak English and SEE THE CENSUS proves it!

Mr. Verb said...

Perfect ... I hadn't thought about the Monty Python thing, but it definitely fits.

Even if the number of non-English speakers declines, yes, US English will find a way to argue that we have to have an official language.

I say we talk about that when we're no longer at war, when we've got health care and financial regulation more or less, when we aren't closing schools and police departments because of budget shortfalls. Etc.

The Ridger, FCD said...

If only English was our official only language then we wouldn't have those other problems!!!