New York City now has more non-English speakers than ever, according to the Census Bureau: nearly two million. In response to this growing population, the city has assembled a host of programs to help it serve not just those who speak Spanish, Chinese and Russian, but also languages like Pashto, Punjabi, Uzbek and Urdu.
The New York Police Department, the largest in the country with almost 35,000 officers, has tried to stay at the forefront of the effort, and has billed its foreign language program as the world’s standard.
But having services doesn’t ensure they will be used, and some New Yorkers say that in the frantic, often frightening minutes just after a crime has occurred, their pleas for assistance in their native language have been ignored by officers. While help arrived swiftly after a call to 911, they say, officers didn’t summon a bilingual colleague, find an impartial bilingual bystander, or call the interpretation service the city uses for such situations. Domestic violence calls, already fraught with confusion and tension, have been particularly prone to language lapses, according to victim advocates. In interviews, several women said that without an interpreter, their attempts to report crimes were stifled.
Read more at the New York Times.