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Bridging Language Barriers: New York Translation Services

Across New York’s dynamic landscape, the commitment to language access resonates strongly, spanning the diverse neighborhoods of New York City to the farthest corners of the state. This article looks at the ways both the City and State have pioneered initiatives to embrace and empower their multilingual populations.

Embracing Diversity in New York City

New York City, known for its vibrant, diverse neighborhoods, is home to one of the world’s most linguistically varied populations. With more than four million foreign-born residents from more than 200 countries, New Yorkers speak an estimated 800 languages. While this diversity enriches the city, it also presents unique challenges, especially for those who do not speak English as their native language. Nearly half of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and 1.8 million people are limited in English proficiency (LEP).

Local Law 30 and the Commitment to New York City Translation Services

In response to these challenges, New York City has enacted multiple laws and executive orders to support immigrants and ensure that city agencies are equipped to communicate with and serve LEP individuals effectively.

In February 2017, the New York City Council passed one of the strongest language access laws in the country, Local Law No. 30 (LL30). This law ensures that LEP New Yorkers are able to access information, programs, and services offered by City government. Specifically, LL30 mandates that certain city agencies translate commonly distributed documents, appoint a language access coordinator, develop language access implementation plans, and provide telephonic interpretation in at least 100 languages, among other requirements.

Empowering Voters: New York City Translation Services in Elections

Language access in New York City extends to making democratic participation and civic engagement available to LEP individuals. The New York City Campaign Finance Board, among other government agencies and community groups, plays a crucial role in providing language-specific educational materials and translation services to help ensure language accessibility in elections. These initiatives help ensure that all residents, irrespective of their language proficiency, can fully engage in the democratic process.

Statewide Language Access Policy: A New Era in New York Translation Services

Language access initiatives are not limited to the five boroughs – New York has also been driving language access initiatives at the state level. New York State is one of the most diverse states in the country, and there are millions of New Yorkers who do not speak English as their primary language. April 2022 marked a significant milestone when Governor Hochul codified and expanded New York’s previous language access policy and made the updated New York State language access law a part of the FY 2023 Enacted Budget. This new policy is a game-changer for LEP individuals in New York State, mandating that all State agencies that interact with the public provide interpretation services in any language with respect to the provision of agency services and benefits. Moreover, vital documents must be translated into the top 12 non-English languages most commonly spoken by LEP New Yorkers, based on Census data. These languages currently include Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Yiddish, though this list is dynamic and evolves with the state’s linguistic demographics. Additional languages may also be added onto the list depending upon local need.

New York State Translation Services Agency and the Office of Language Access

As a means to further strengthen and codify the State’s commitment to linguistic inclusivity, the 2022 policy called for the establishment of the New York State Office of Language Access. On Oct. 3, 2022, New York launched this office to oversee the state’s language access policy and facilitate the translation of government communications into the most widely spoken languages across the state (listed above). This office is pivotal in guiding State agencies on the implementation of the State’s language access policy, ensuring that translation services in New York are effective and widespread.

Eriksen Translations: A New York City and State Translation Services Success Story

As part of the vibrant fabric of New York City, Eriksen Translations, headquartered in Brooklyn, has been a proud participant in these language access initiatives. Founded by a Norwegian immigrant and composed of a team from diverse backgrounds, Eriksen embodies the spirit of New York City’s multicultural ethos. We at Eriksen have been honored to assist City and State agencies in ensuring that LEP residents have equitable access to services and receive vital health and safety information in languages they understand.

A Unified New York through Translation Services

New York City and State’s commitment to language access is a shining example of how linguistic diversity can be harnessed to build more inclusive and accessible communities. New York, at every level, is setting a gold standard for linguistic inclusivity.

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