The Fraser Institute is out with a new study that finds that taxpayer-funded language translations cost Canadian taxpayers $2.4 BILLION dollars a year. As is happening in the United States, more and more Canadians speak languages other than English and French, so the federal and provincial governments are spending well over $2 billion annually on translations into English and French – the dual official languages of our northern neighbor.
Americans can and should learn from this whopping figure. The United States has 10 times the population of Canada and because the U.S. Congress has, thus far, refused to establish English as the official language of government, the cost of foreign language services to American taxpayers is likely to be in the ballpark of tens-of-billions of dollars per year!
The U.S. Congress should take a hint from this Canadian report and it should demand that the cost of translation services be included in the annual budget report. OMB estimated in a 2002 report to Congress entitled, Assessment of the Total Benefits and Costs of Implementing Executive Order No. 13166: Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, that the total national cost of providing language assistance services to LEP individuals could be as high as $2 billion annually. However, the size of the federal government is approximately twice as large today as it was in 2002.
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC) has introduced a bill, the Multilingual Services Accounting Act (H.R. 1715), that would require the U.S. Federal government to include the total cost of foreign-language translations and services in The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) annual budget report to Congress every year.
Currently, Federal agencies do not report the amount of taxpayer dollars they spend on translations. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alone translates its documents, services, and even website features into at least 9 languages, including Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Hatian Creole, Arabic, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Khmer.