Earlier this month I attended Emergency Preparation Day at my county fair. As I strolled among booths offering information on CPR, earthquakes, and how to turn off your gas, one display caught my eye: the county government offered health information about Hepatitis B in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and more.
Recently a lady came to my door in the middle of the day. She was looking for a neighbor, but she didn’t know the exact house number. She tried to describe my neighbor saying, “She only speaks Chinese.”
My town includes people whose first language is Arabic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Russian, Farsi, German, and a lot more. That’s not unusual. What surprised me was that I didn’t realize there was anyone on the street who spoke ONLY Chinese.
One small step we can all take to strengthen our neighborhood networks is to make an inventory of language resources in the neighborhood. Imagine that we needed to evacuate the neighborhood, or that we needed access to a house to turn off the gas. Knowing where to find someone to translate could be crucial to ensuring everyone’s safety.
Then it occurred to me – there’s a Chinese-American man down the block, and perhaps an older relative lives with him. Indeed, that was my neighbor who the lady was seeking.
And just a block away is a house owned by two Chinese-speaking doctors. Knowing this, I’m better prepared to work for everyone’s benefit in case of disaster.
How about you? Any neighbors you don’t know? Any language resources on your block?