Greensboro improving the way it communicates with non-English speakers

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Greensboro Human Relations Education and Outreach Coordinator Jodie Stanley believes the city is doing a good job communicating with non-English speakers.

"Language is critical to accessing services. That's something Greensboro recognizes and we want to be the gold standard to what we are providing," Stanley said.

The city's language access plan involves several steps. The first step is pretty standard for a lot of cities. There is a language line available if someone needs a translator. But the Human Relations Department is excited about a program that is unique to Greensboro.

"Everything from engineering, inspections, human resources, any department you can think of, we had representation."

Stanley is talking about the free Spanish class the city offers. The pilot program has been very successful and is ready to grow.

"We got some great feedback from the pilot and we will roll out a new version that is tiered," Stanley said.

The new program should begin in January. A tiered program will allow city employees to build and advance their Spanish language skills.

Stanley is bilingual. She knows firsthand what it means to be able to tell people about city services and have the tools to overcome language barriers.

"There's an instant affinity they feel for you," Stanley said. "There's an instant trust you earn when you speak their language and they are extremely thankful."

The Human Relations Department will also begin tracking how often the city's 57 bilingual speakers are used as translators.

Spanish is the top foreign language in Greensboro. Next are Vietnamese, Arabic, French and Cambodian.