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The Asian Foreign-Born Population

Asia, consisting of 52 countries and 4.2 billion people, is an extremely diverse continent. While there is no way to determine the exact number of different ethnic groups in Asia, there are 55 recognized ethnic minority groups in China alone! Out of the 7,000 languages spoken around the world, 2,200 of the world’s languages can be found in Asia (BBC Language).

During the last 50 years, the number of foreign born from Asia in the United States have increased rapidly, from about 0.5 million in 1960 to 11.6 million in 2011. In 2011, the foreign born from Asia represented over one-fourth of the total foreign-born population in the nation.

The US Census reports that “of the 11.6 million foreign born from Asia, 34 percent were from South Eastern Asia, 32 percent from Eastern Asia, 26 percent from South Central Asia, and 8 percent from Western Asia. There were five countries of birth with over 1 mil­lion people living in the United States: China, India, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. China accounted for 19 percent of the foreign born from Asia, while India and the Philippines each represented about 16 percent, Vietnam about 11 percent, and Korea 9 percent.”

While Spanish is the most commonly spoken second language in the United States and has been for many decades, other languages are increasing in demand, mostly as a result of the influx of Asian immigrants that have surpassed Latino immigrants.

These 11.6 million immigrants represent a wide variety of cultural and language diversities from Asia, and each of these new and growing populations have a percentage that speak English less than “very well.” In some groups, as much as 60% speak English less than “very well” (Census).

This has serious implications for healthcare providers. As more and more immigrants enter this country, language interpretation demand continues to grow.  Since communication is the key to quality care and patient satisfaction, providers must find a way to deliver service in a patient’s preferred language.

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