US census forms will be online in 7 new languages, from Arabic to Tagalog

Online questionnaires and phone interviews will be available in 13 languages for the 2020 census.

(CNN)To count immigrants who might be overlooked otherwise, federal officials are adding seven languages to questionnaires for the 2020 US census.

Next year, people can respond to census questions online or over the phone in Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Tagalog (spoken in the Philippines). The additions bring the total count to 13 languages, along with English, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
The newly added languages are commonly spoken in at least 60,000 households in which English language skills were lacking, according to data from the census' 2016 American Community Survey.
The US Census Bureau now offers glossaries and other information in a total of 59 languages, including Lithuanian, Somali and American Sign Language -- all of them spoken most commonly in more than 2,000 households.
    The US Census Bureau this week announced updates to its 2020 census process.
    The paper census forms are available only in Spanish and English.
    The Census Bureau tracks data on minority groups it deems "hard to count" and publishes an interactive map showing the exact locales where low numbers of households have mailed back census questionnaires.
    The newly available languages come at the recommendation of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. By allowing these Americans to fill out forms online in languages with which they're most comfortable, the bureau is betting they'll get a more accurate count.

    Groups such as Arab-Americans have been hard to count

    Maya Berry, executive director for the Arab American Institute, told CNN that adding the new languages, including Arabic, was "wonderful news."
    She cited Census data that there are 1.2 million Arabic speakers in the United States -- not just among immigrants but native residents, as well. Arab-American groups have been advocating for years to have census questions in Arabic.
    Filling out census data is required by law and helps determine federal funding levels in education, public health and other areas.
    Arab-Americans have been a historically undercounted group, says Berry, who believes online questionnaires in Arabic will encourage more Arab residents to participate.
    But Berry says she is disappointed the census won't include a question asking about Middle East and North African (MENA) ethnicity. Currently, Arab-Americans don't have an ethnic box they can check on the census form, and many have to categorize themselves as "white" or "other."
    2 versions of census prepared, with and without citizenship question