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Friday, December 14, 2012



Is Language Holding Back New York’s Bengali Voters?


BY NINA PORZUCKI

[Note from Patrick Cox: Here's a guest post from New York-based reporter Nina Porzucki]
Once a month Zain Ahmed treks from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to a windowless basement shop in Jackson Heights, Queens, just to get his haircut. “I take 3 or 4 trains just to get here,” says Ahmed. “That’s dedication, right?”
Ahmed works in finance, as a bond researcher. When it comes to the election, he’s most concerned about the economy and “where we’re headed.” Ahmed is a Democrat, and Tuesday he will be voting for Obama.
Ahmed was born in the US but his parents are from Bangladesh. He grew up speaking both English and Bengali. For him, language assistance at the polls isn’t an issue. He didn’t even know that Bengali translations of the ballot would be available—or for that matter that the local Bangladeshi population has grown as much as it has.
According to the latest census, there are enough limited-English speakers of South Asian decent to require language assistance in Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi at certain polling places in Queens. Of those languages, there are more Bengali speakers who speak limited English. While there will be interpreters available for all three languages, officials chose to translate the ballot into just Bengali.
For complete article, click here

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