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Monday, March 30, 2020

For Those With Spare Time (i.e. almost everybody)

How many languages - aside from English - would you guess are readily available for U.S. residents who will participate in the 2020 census? I'll provide that answer - which is easily located in the packet many of us recently received, issued by the Department of Commerce - but I've got more questions, none of which I would have gotten right, BTW.

OK, for the twelve languages aside from English, how many do you think you'd guess correctly? My conjecture - test this out with people you know - is that no one, even the most well-informed among us, will get more than nine of the twelve. I'll go a step further: The majority of us wouldn't correctly guess more than half. Go ahead, use the list and try out my theory. Though I'd welcome being proved wrong, I sincerely doubt that will be the case.

But, before you do look at the list - complete with a unique toll free number for each of the twelve on the reverse side - try this: How many of the twelve languages originated in Europe? On this, I'd wager an overwhelming majority would get the question wrong, but again, try it out with friends, family, and other socially distant folks. Try pitching it as a more worthwhile use of enforced at home time than endless YouTube clips and/or Tik-Tok. 

Last: Of the four languages that originated in Europe - five if you count Russian which is more in Asia than Europe - how many of those do you think you'd guess correctly? I saved the easiest for last although even here my bet is the majority of people would miss at least one of these four (or five) as well.

I'll guess what you're thinking: Pat has too much spare time. Here's the thing - Even if I weren't at home a lot these days like most of you, this stuff would still have fascinated me. I love how this census form embodies one of the strengths of the U.S. - our diversity. I hope you'll let me and others know how my conjectures hold up.       


  1. We got 8, but I also think there should have been 13 additional listed because we included Cantonese and Mandarin as separate languages as opposed to lumping them in to Chinese. Just saying.

  2. JM; Nice work, although doing it as a team gave you an advantage. Did you get all four (or five) European- based languages right? And, did you, like me, wonder why German was NOT one of the European languages?