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Front-line municipal workers in Boston learn Spanish, city's most common non-English language

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 22, 2013 10:58 AM

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Front-line city employees recently completed a pilot program to learn Spanish, the most common non-English language in Boston.

The two-day course taught the workers basic greetings and phrases in an effort to make City Hall more welcoming to residents who speak Spanish as their first language, according to the city. And, the employees reviewed existing protocol for where to direct people who need more assistance in another language.

“City Hall should be accessible to every Boston resident, regardless of the language they speak,” said a statement from Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“Constituent service has always been a priority of my administration, and this is one more step to continue to improve the customer service experience at City Hall, and expand our outreach to the growing population of Spanish-speaking Bostonians,” he added.

The 13 employees who took the course last week work in several city departments, including the registry division, election department, emergency shelter commission, neighborhood development department and the mayor’s 24-hour hotline, city officials said.

An instructor from Berlitz, a nationally-recognized language instruction company, taught and organized the class, which was provided for free to employees.

Approximately 90,000, or about 15 percent of, Boston residents speak Spanish, city officials said. Since 1990, the city’s Hispanic and Latino population has increased by 74 percent.

Nearly 40 percent of students in Boston Public Schools are Hispanic, and 27 percent of the city school district’s English language learners are Spanish speakers, officials said.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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