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.

Posts Tagged ‘languages’

Some tips for identifying a Census worker

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Concerns about identifying Census enumerators aren’t new on MyTwoCensus, and we’ve even posted news of a tragic incident that might have been prevented if certain information had been more widespread. Fortunately, the Daily River Front Times had a Q&A session with the Census Bureau on just that subject:

1.Q. How to identify an official Census taker?

1.A. An official Census taker will have an official ID badge with their name, expiration date and the U.S. Department of Commerce logo on it. They will have a “Your Answers Are Confidential Information Sheet” (Form D-1 (F); may be carrying a black canvass bag with the U.S. Department of Commerce logo; and they will provide their supervisor’s contact information or the number to the Local Census Office for verification, if asked. Census takers will also have a Language ID Flashcard with 35 languages.

2. Q. Will a census taker ask to come inside someone’s home?

2. A. No.

3.Q. Will a Census taker ask for my Social Security number or bank information?

3.A. No, a Census taker will not ask for Social Security numbers or for bank information.

4.Q. If a resident sent in their Census questionnaire, can they still receive a visit from a Census taker or a phone call from the U.S. Census Bureau?

4.A. Yes, if a resident’s questionnaire was received by the Census Bureau after the deadline for Complete Count Door-to-Door Follow Up, they will likely be visited by a Census taker during Door-to-Door Enumeration. The Census Bureau also conducts quality control as a part of the 2010 Census so a resident could be contacted during quality control operations. The Census Bureau asks for the public’s cooperation during these operations.

5.Q. What does a Census taker do if there is no one at home?

5.A. A Census taker will leave a Notice of Visit (Form D-26), with their name and phone number or the phone number to the Local Census Office. This way the resident can contact the census taker or the Local Census Office to arrange a convenient time to be interviewed.

6.Q. How many times will a Census taker visit a house?

6.A. A Census taker will make at least three visits at different times of the day in an effort to interview a resident of the home.

7.Q. What does a Census taker do if he or she cannot speak to someone at the home after several attempts?

7.A. A Census taker will try to locate a person with knowledge about the house and its occupants such as a neighbor, a landlord or a property manager in order to get as much information as possible to complete the Census questionnaire.

Is speaking English a requirement to become a 2010 Census employee? Apparently not.

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The following report comes from San Antonio. Has anyone else experienced a 2010 Census worker who doesn’t speak English or is this an isolated case?

By Steve Lindscomb

SAN ANTONIO-Census workers are knocking on doors to get unanswered forms, but what would you do if that worker couldn’t speak your language? That’s what happened to one woman recently. When we first asked the Census Bureau about this incident that a viewer wrote us about, they found it hard to believe, but when we told them we ran into the very worker ourselves, and he really could not speak english, they had some questions to answer.

Sylvia Turner told us she was shocked. The census worker she talked to was very nice and courteous, but could not hardly put two or three english words together. “I tried, I stood there, I tried to be very patient and he could not speak one work clearly.”

She said she was surprised because she thought every census worker was tested for fluency in at least english. She didn’t want to get the worker in trouble, but somehow, the system broke down.

Her question was “are they speaking to these individuals or are they just taking applications.”

When we cruised around this north side neighborhood we happened to run into a census worker. And wouldn’t you know it…it had to be the same guy, because after talking to him for ten minutes, neither one of us knew what the other was trying to say. We didn’t want to embarrass him so we aren’t identifying him, but we did ask the census bureau if workers are tested and screened to communicate with the public.

A spokesperson would only read a statement to me over the phone. “While enumerators can take the skills test in Spanish, they must also then pass an English proficiency test. Enumerator training is conducted in English and, afterward, workers are observed and evaluated for English proficiency and their ability to conduct the survey. ”

The Census Bureau did tell us that if you run into a similar language problem, the worker has a form where you can indicate in which language you can answer questions. Another worker fluent in that language should come back to your house the next day.

Press Release: TeleTech Government Solutions Providing Hosted Cloud-Based Technology Infrastructure for 2010 Census

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Here’s another company that we will be watching over:

ENGLEWOOD, CO, Apr 27, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — TeleTech Government Solutions, LLC, a subsidiary of TeleTech Holdings, Inc.(TTEC 17.63, -0.41, -2.27%), has engineered and launched a secure telephony solution to support approximately 8,000 call center agents across five call center outsource providers for the 2010 U.S. Census. As part of this solution, TeleTech also provides custom-designed desktop applications, sophisticated workforce management tools, call recording and business intelligence across the 11 call centers supporting the project.

TeleTech is providing these technology services for the census as a subcontractor to IBM as part of the Lockheed Martin-led Decennial Response Integration System contract. TeleTech supports inbound and outbound operations in 11 call centers nationwide to either answer questions from respondents about the 2010 census and the questionnaire or to call respondents to allow for more coverage follow-up. TeleTech’s fully redundant, secure, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) infrastructure will enable the 11 call centers to support up to 60,000 inbound calls per hour. Call processing began on February 25 and it is estimated that TeleTech’s network will support more than 15 million calls by the time the program ends on August 14, 2010.

In addition to being the principal provider of call center technology, TeleTech is staffing approximately 1,300 call center agents in the Stockton, Calif. and Kennesaw, Ga. call center locations who are skilled in six languages including English, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Spanish and support an 18-hour day that spans from Puerto Rico to Hawaii.

“TeleTech is proud to have been selected to support the 2010 Census,” said Mariano Tan, president of TeleTech Government Solutions. “We have been developing this solution for the census since TeleTech was selected in 2006, and believe our selection is a testament to our ability to consistently deliver industry leading technology solutions.”

The 2010 Census forms began arriving in the mailboxes of 120 million U.S. households in early March 2010. People with questions about the form contact one of five census call centers through TeleTech’s network where agents offer Telephony Questionnaire Assistance (TQA). Callers are able to get answers to frequently asked questions and request forms through a fully automated interactive voice response system. More complex questions are automatically routed to a geographically dispersed pool of trained call center agents ready to provide questionnaire assistance. The system also features an integrated satisfaction survey to enable continuous measurement of the caller experience across the various call centers.

After the questionnaires are returned, the Census Bureau will go through an extensive Coverage Follow-Up (CFU) data validation process. TeleTech’s technology infrastructure is expected to schedule and manage more than 8 million outbound calls allowing call center agents to reach out to respondents for the purpose of completing missing data elements or clarifying responses. By using this solution to support the validation process, the Census Bureau will be able to save the cost of sending a census taker door to door to follow-up with each household that fails to respond. TeleTech began supporting the CFU call follow-up on April 11.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau is tasked with surveying the entirety of the nation’s growing and changing population. Data is collected through mailed paper forms, field enumerators, and call center agents. To promote the speed, accuracy, and security of data collection, the Census Bureau is embracing an unprecedented level of information technology in 2010. For every one percentage point increase in the national participation rate by mail, taxpayers can help the Census Bureau save about $85 million in operational costs.

ABOUT TELETECH GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS: TeleTech Government Solutions provides full service front- and back-office business process outsourcing and customer and enterprise management services on five continents. The company helps government agencies implement large-scale solutions tailored to meet specific needs and challenges by delivering customer management, transaction-based processing, and database marketing services. TeleTech Government’s comprehensive solutions include fully managed, OnDemand services including infrastructure, software, and business intelligence, interactive voice response (IVR), self-help Web, back-office processing, fulfillment, training, staffing and other management applications. For more information visit www.teletechgovernment.com

Update: Errors in Burmese Translations

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

On March 8, MyTwoCensus posted a story that explained that there were errors in the translations of the Burmese 2010 Census documents  — and documents translated into other languages as well.

Burmese scholars Julian Wheatley of MIT and San San Hnin Tun of Cornell University took the time to correct the errors and re-translate the Burmese documents. The major mistakes are addressed here on the corrected Burmese translation of the 2010 Census form that the two professors created. (There are also questions of standard vs non-standard spellings and some usage changes that the pair has observed, but did not incorporate into the final product, as these are not true errors.)

Perhaps if the Census Bureau consulted experts in the way that I did, these translation errors would have never occurred in the first place.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Conclusive Evidence That Burmese Translations For 2010 Census Are Wrong!

Monday, March 8th, 2010

UPDATE: The Census Bureau conducted business in early 2009 with an outside consulting firm to evaluate the accuracy of 2010 Census forms in four languages (Chinese, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese). Additionally, here is some further evidence of problems from an external report (available in full HERE):

Errors were discovered in the Vietnamese-language materials, including the sample
Vietnamese Census Form.  The Bureau had been inconsistent in their word choice for “census,”
using both “điều tra” and “thống kê” interchangeably.  For the Vietnamese community, “điều
tra” or “government investigation” carries a negative connotation because it is associated with
the communist regime.  While the Bureau recently fixed the online form, it is uncertain whether
the corrections will appear in the printed census forms.

In February, after being tipped off about translation errors on the Census Bureau’s foreign language forms, MyTwoCensus set out to conduct an investigation into Diplomatic Language Services, the firm that was contracted to conduct all translations for the 2010 Census. Our Freedom Of Information Act request has not yet been answered, so we started to contact leading foreign language scholars to translate forms for us and judge the quality of translations.

One minority group that will suffer terribly because of poor translations is America’s Burmese community. Though there isn’t much reliable data on the Burmese-American community, a cursory read of the group’s Wikipedia entry reveals that “According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 16,720 persons of Burmese descent resided in the United States. That number is estimated to have risen to at least 50,000 today because of the large number of Burmese people seeking political asylum.”

Regarding the Burmese translation (available HERE), Julian Wheatley, who serves as the President of the Burma Studies Foundation and works in the Department of Foreign Languages & Literature at MIT told us,  “There are some usage problems, which probably arose because the original translator stuck too close to the English. More obvious, one paragraph has been repeated. Towards the end, well into the second page, you’ll see the phrase (2010 Census) in parentheses. Above it is a small three line paragraph, and the two longer paragraphs above that — you’ll see them — are identical (one in bold, one normal). Presumably that is not as intended.”

This investigation is ongoing. If you or anyone you know has noticed poor language translations on a 2010 Census form, we encourage you to contact us with specific information.

San Francisco vs. The U.S. Census Bureau

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

H/t to the San Francisco Chronicle:

City Hall takes on the U.S. Census — again!

Squaring off against the U.S. Census is nothing new for City Hall officials – and they’re doing it again this week over the “advanced letter” the census sends all U.S. residents explaining the census questionnaire several weeks before they get the real thing.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera wants the U.S. Census to have a heartPaul Chinn/The Chronicle

In 2000, the advanced letter was sent in a variety of languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog. But in February, the letter will go out in English only, with Spanish versions included in some census tracts.

That means a lot of San Francisco’s 325,000 residents who speak a language other than English may not understand what to do with the census questionnaire. And that means they may skip it altogether, go uncounted and cause the city to lose out on federal money.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, have sent a letter to the census asking that it reconsider its policy change. Chiu also introduced legislation at the board calling for an inclusive advanced letter.

The city has a long history of waging battles against the census. In the 1970s, Chinese residents sued over an undercount in Chinatown. In 1990, the city sued over another undercount. In 2000, the city said the census undercounted by a whopping 100,000 people – causing the San Francisco to lose out on $30 million a year in federal funds. (The census compromised, giving the city another 34,209 people.)

Sonny Le, a media specialist with the census, said nothing about the advanced letter has been finalized. We asked him numerous times why the language change had been floated in the first place, and he couldn’t give an answer, only saying it was “a combination of different things.”