Silly To Think New York Can Work As A Polyglot City

Today’s NEW YORK TIMES runs an article about the problems of people in the city who speak everything imaginable, everything except English. And who gets the blame? The NYPD because even though the department has what it considers a world-class foreign language program. The critics charge that in the heat of a crime situation responding officers have failed to request a bilingual colleague and get an impartial bilingual bystander or make use of the cities’  interpretation service for help.

Think, Then Think Again!

Part of the problem is the City of New York has been on this feel good road for some time and it isn’t working. In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Executive Order 120.  It mandates that all City agencies provide language assistance for in the top six languages spoken in New York. That would include Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole. This is a very expensive proposition to reach an even minimal level of the customer service the city is talking about providing to its limited English population. And while it is aimed at the top six OTHER languages, that is besides English, it doesn’t help the immigrants who speak a multitude of other languages including Yiddish, Bengali and Polish . The estimate is there are 1.8 million New Yorkers who need this help because they aren’t fluent in English.

Now when you talk about the services provided by NYPD and FDNY the problems are much worse. Put your self in the shoes of a police officer responding to a call and you have to worry about the safety of the citizens not to mention your own well-being. The well-meaning people behind this initiative don’t seem to understand that in an emergency there is often no time for calling for bilingual back-up. The idea of first-responders being expected to have to sit and wait while someone from City Services  comes to the scene to act as an impartial interpreter is ludicrous.

And yet the people of  New York reelected Mayor Bloomberg and have double-downed with Mayor Bill de Blasio. So we shall see.

It is of course the evil, uncaring conservatives who insist that immigrants learn to speak English. So unfair, so hurtful and divisive. But imagine a city where all of its citizens could communicate with each other in a common language. Imaging if you were in trouble and could communicate with the people who are there to help you, what a wonderful place that would be. That is of course the goal behind the initiatives that have been put into action but they are not a solution, they simply create more problems.

Think how much more the city could be providing in the way of services if all the money didn’t have to go to providing interpreters for so many.

The situation is what it is and with the system in place the police and other departments must do what they are required to do and call for bilingual backup and impartial observers and anything else that is being provided by the City. However someone needs to Think, Then Think Again about this absurd situation.

Maybe the NEW YORK TIMES could do an article from the perspective of the first-reponders and detail how much funding it has taken to get this program up and running. And maybe they could distribute copies of the article in six other languages so everyone would have access to the same important information. Maybe not.


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