Las Vegas hits the
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mar. 14, 2005
LAS VEGAS - The Las Vegas area is
one of the most linguistically diverse metropolitan areas in the country,
according to a national report released this week by the U.S. English
The study, which ranked the Las Vegas
metropolitan area 21st among the 200 metropolitan areas surveyed, found that
84 languages are spoken by southern Nevadans. Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese and
German top the list of languages other than English most commonly spoken in
The foundation is a Washington,
D.C.-based nonprofit group devoted to improving English education for
immigrants and advocating for English as the country's official language.
The study highlights the growing need
that area law enforcement, courts, hospitals and other government agencies
have for interpreters and bilingual employees. It also reflects Las Vegas'
status as one of the country's leading international tourist destinations,
With an increasing diversity in
languages spoken, the county's court system has had to develop an
interpretation service that employs 30 interpreters and translators capable
of communicating in 50 languages. The program started about 15 years ago
with six interpreters and has grown with demand.
Leland Page, administrator of
Interpretive Services for Clark County District Court, said his program has
been able to keep up with demand.
"We're finding that as demand goes up,
so does supply of interpreters," he said. "We certify three or four
interpreters a year, and that's been on pace with our need so far."
But the Las Vegas Police Department is
struggling to keep 23 part-time interpreters who speak mainly English and
Sheriff Bill Young has asked for about
$1 million over two years to continue the interpreter program. The federal
grant that allowed the department to hire the interpreters two years ago is
expected to run out by July.
"Officers are constantly responding to
calls where the people aren't able to speak English," Young said. "Some of
our officers work in extremely Latino neighborhoods where for 75 percent of
the calls you can't be an effective police officer, you can't do your job,
if you don't speak Spanish."
Recruiting bilingual officers has been
slow, Young said, despite financial incentives for officers who speak more
than one language.
Young said 8 percent of the
department's 1,992 officers are Hispanic, but few of them speak Spanish. So,
for now, the department relies on interpreters who are called to the scene
when an officer needs help.
University Medical Center, the
county-run public hospital, has four full-time interpreters who speak
Portuguese, Hebrew and Spanish. About 15 other employees sometimes interpret
for doctors who need to communicate with patients who speak a variety of
other languages, including Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese and Tagalog.
"We definitely need more full-time
interpreters," said Sylvia Vazquez, who oversees the hospital's translators