My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York

We must have missed the following report when it was originally published two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to learn about these problems as has repeatedly criticized the Census Bureau and its contractor Diplomatic Language Services for doing a shoddy job. Thanks to the Queens Courier in New York for the following:

Slam errors in census forms

Koreans, Chinese, Latinos complain

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2:06 PM EDT

Assemblymember Grace Meng says she’s “angered” over translation errors in the Korean version of 2010 census forms and communications trouble on the Census’ language hotline.

Meng is one of several lawmakers who have called on the Asian community to respond to the census forms. “We have stated over and over again that our schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, police and other services depend on the census,” she said.

But now, constituents have told her that where the English language form asks for “County,” the Korean form asks “Country;” instead of “State” the Korean form asks “Province.”

“It’s confusing. In Asia, ‘Province’ has a specific meaning,” she said, speculating that people who get stumped on a question might not mail in the form.

Meng also complained that some Chinese and Koreans in her district said that the persons on the hotline “do not speak their native language fluently.”

“Someone didn’t understand ‘House Number’ and the help line operator could only explain what ‘house’ and ‘number’ meant,” Meng recounted. “They couldn’t or wouldn’t explain that it meant the address,” she said.

Northeast Queens Census Supervisor Nan Min was distressed. “I heard about the forms – they came out of Washington months ago,” she said, powerless to do anything about it. Min explained that the toll free help number directs to the Washington, D.C. area.

“We have a local help line number – 347-783-1049 – that is staffed with people from around Flushing,” said Min, who is fluent in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

“We have speakers of at least four of the more popular Chinese dialects, Korean and other languages spoken around this area,” she added. “We’ve been working hard – we’re 10 percent ahead of the response in the last census.”

Some people, especially in the Hispanic community, have expressed confusion about questions 8 and 9, relating to “origin” and “race,” but Min explained that you can check all boxes that apply to you. “We want you to self-identify – write-in or check off what it takes to describe yourself.”

“I can’t comment on that,” regional census supervisor Patricia Valle told The Queens Courier, promising to contact the supervisors at the language hotline.

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7 Responses to “Korean translation errors on 2010 Census form irk some in New York”

  1. paco Says:

    Whaaaaaaaa!!! If your knickers are in a twist…take’em off! There are other things to get upset about. Like why PBOCS is STILL screwed up…they had 10 YEARS to get it right before now. Your tax dollars WASTED and someones govt. retirement getting fat!

  2. Neal Says:

    It is a stupid screw up – but still. Isn’t English the language we speak here. I presume that in Korea, government forms are printed in Korean.

  3. HermHollerith Says:

    I think the idea was to count every human being residing in the United States, no matter what language they read/speak. The 2010 Census was not intended to be a census of English speakers or a census of people who read English fluently.

    Please tell us how PBOCS is still screwed up.

  4. RG Says:

    If you look at the Russian recruiting poster (somewhere around D-32xx, as I recall), it says “editable text”
    “editable text”
    “editable text”

    right under the bit about not far from home. If nothing else, it might read as something a little funny to the Russians hiding in Brighton Beach, but again, I didn’t see a whole lot in English over there, and think it’s commendable that Census has undertaken to be as thorough as it can for this one. Honestly, if the Koreans are bent out of shape, sorry. If those other people who need to be recognized in their own language rather than English are unhappy here…
    there’s always home sweet home.
    If my family could come here and be drilled by the parents to speak English, I should hope that anyone else might care about this place a bit more than an oasis on the pike; the people in our offices who do speak another language (minor exception of a couple who again subscribe to the non-English term for themselves) care enough to speak English as well as they do, I am happy to see them in government. No one says we need accommodate all comers’ whims; just count their heads. If I’m willing to wear this flag on this little badge, I might do well to get some grip on the idiom in which our government conducts its business. Our LCO has people of many backgrounds and origins, fluent in both their language and that of their adopted country. We’re doing everyone a favor in at least having the all-flavors flashcard, with a phone contact to sort it out, which should really do enough, shouldn’t it? How much better might PBOCS run if we were able to concentrate more on the actual operation of our system than on everyone’s personal preference for comfort while simply being counted?

  5. LCO-AM Says:

    PBOCS is beyond bad, someone should be send to prison over this.

    I’d like to see the money trail behind it.

  6. HermHollerith Says:

    Probably the someone or somebodies who should be sent to prison are permanent federal employees who are U.S. citizens.

    The translation story is not unrelated to the PBOCS story.
    Both are about the poor quality of work done by the Census Bureau and/or its contractors.
    English is not the mother tongue of many of the contract software developers who worked on PBOCS.

    Even if the statistics in yesterday’s report from the Census Bureau are not accurate, they probably approximate the truth. The report says that many born in the U.S. are not learning English as their first language.

    Following a wave of immigration, Congress decided to ignore the law and not reapportion after the 1920 census. Read Margo J. Anderson’s book “The American Census. A Social History” 1990.

    Are any of you wearing those T-shirts that say “Go home. Earth is full.” ?

  7. put it in perspective Says:

    Koreans are the last folks who should be complaining about language and translation errors. More of a pot calling the kettle black than a crisis. While you’re at it, find out where the translation was performed. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that a Korean company was responsible for the inaccurate text.