Houston Expands Language Translation For City Services

More than 100 languages are spoken in Houston — but only two are routinely used for City of Houston services. The city will soon offer more translations for critical services.

You can get any information you need about city services in English and Spanish. But what if you just moved here from Vietnam, Korea or Sudan?

Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed an executive order that calls for the city to offer critical information in five additional languages.

"This is about making sure that the different populations here who have needed services from the city or need critical emergency information have the access to that information. And it's not the most common languages, it is the most needed languages."

The languages are yet to be determined. Some translations are already widely available through community groups. So, Parker says they'll assess which language groups have the least access to critical information.

"Of particular challenge is refugee groups that come, who are often completely dislocated, don't have English-language training in their home countries and have a whole host of other issues that they have to work through. So working with the departments, the departments will decide what information is critically needed in an emergency situation or to navigate the city process."

The city already has translation services for 9-1-1 calls.

This will apply to other critical communications, like information about how to prepare for a hurricane, who to call if you smell gas in your home, or where to go for health services.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...