Asian Languages Key to Presidential Victory

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When President Obama and Mitt Romney resume slugging it out after playing the solidarity-in-a-Sandy-storm game, they would do well to wonder if they have both missed the biggest opportunity that could secure victory.

Lingo24 translation services


Are Obama and Romney Missing a Trick – or seven?

The rate of growth of the Asian American population including Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) is the fastest in the States. Between them, AAPIs speak at least seven different languages: Korean, Hindi, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Tagalog and Hmong.

Christian Arno, founder and president of Lingo24, the international translation agency, says, “These are their preferred languages - on average just 25% of Asian Americans speak only English at home. And yet fewer than a quarter have been contacted by neither the Democrats or the Republicans in the last two years, and rarely, in their own languages”.

President Obama and Mitt Romney’s websites can be accessed only in one other language, viz. Spanish. Latinos and Hispanics are numerically a larger group of the population than AAPIs. Half of their number are predominantly Spanish speaking. Yet, even for them, there are few promotional internet videos available in Spanish, approximately 1 in 16.

“Not only is English decreasing as the language of the internet”, says Mr Arno, “But also, in general, people are five times more likely to access information in their own language than in English”.

Although 16.7% of the US population are of Latino/Hispanic origin, compared to 5.2% of AAPIs (US Census 2011), the rate of growth of AAPIs is faster - 43% from 2000 to 2010. In business, the figures are closer. The 2007 US Census found 8.3% of American firms were Hispanic-owned and 5.7% Asian-owned.        

A recent poll by Lake Research Partners conducted in five states with significant populations of Asian Americans viz. California, Nevada, Virginia, Illinois and Florida revealed that the majority were born outside the US, and immigrated as adults, aged over 18. More than three quarters speak another language at home: in Virginia and Illinois the figure is even higher, 84% of Virginian AAPIs speak languages other than English at home; in Illinois 80%.

“While most AAPIs use television as a news source, 40% also use the internet and social media”, says Mr Arno. “At an educated guess, it is likely that they would be using these services in their own languages. So where are the campaign advertisements, the fliers, the videos, the phone calls in Asian languages?”

“Campaign material is produced in Chinese in San Francisco but this is unusual for the States as a whole. Polls show that more than one in five AAPIs would be more likely to vote if they had in-language assistance, as would more than half of Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese aged over 45. In New York, New Jersey and Washington states over 7% are AAPIs. They would like to see campaign material in their own languages but it’s not happening”.

It would seem that both President Obama and Mitt Romney are ignoring these findings at their peril. Mr Arno says, “Asian language speakers could make a big difference in a close election. In swing states AAPIs could give Obama the all-important advantage. In Florida, AAPIs could give Obama a 33,000 vote advantage over Romney, and an enormous 47,000 vote advantage in Virginia. Democrat victory could be found in translation.”

Mr Arno knows a thing or two about the benefits of translation. His company, Lingo24 operates across five continents, with offices in New York and Boston, and translates over 60 million words a year. Since 2010 sales in the US alone have grown by over 75%. Clients include the UN, Bloomberg, American Express and a wealth of small businesses.

For further information and interviews with Christian Arno, please contact Armand Paz: armand.paz(at)lingo24(dot)com. T: +1-631-609-4965. M: +1-507-6-690-3600

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Hazel Mollison
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