New report on language diversity and English proficiency among AAPIs

The Center for American Progress, in conjunction with AAPI Data, released a report in May on language diversity and English proficiency among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This release is part of the report series “State of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are among the fastest growing racial groups in the United States, and language diversity is an important aspect to understand these communities, states the Center for American Progress. People who encounter language barriers tend to earn less, have limited access to quality health care, and are less likely to participate in civic and political life, according to the Center.

The report highlights the fact that the Asian American population in the United States has the highest proportion of residents who speak a language other than English at home. Among Asian languages spoken at home, Chinese is the most prevalent (2.7 million speakers, with about 472,000 and 454,000 specifying Mandarin and Cantonese, respectively), followed by Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), and Korean (1.1 million). The linguistic diversity of South Asian immigrants is also evident, with about 2.8 million speakers of South Asian languages.

Asian Americans also have the highest rates of limited English proficiency at 35 percent, defined by the Census Bureau as those who do not speak English “very well.”

Asian-language news sources play an important role in how Asian Americans are informed about politics and policy, with a significant proportion that consume both English- and Asian-language media. Language access has important implications to voter access and the turnout of the AAPI community during elections.

Access to ballot language assistance is an important issue for effective civic participation. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act mandates Asian language assistance in particular counties, but despite these mandates, nearly one in two Asian American voters in 2012 reported inadequate assistance when they voted in person at a polling location covered under Section 203. (end)

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