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Overcoming Language Barriers

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The number of people living in the Quad Cities who speak languages other than English is growing.

The 2010 census shows for the first time immigrants are moving away from big cities.

Choosing to live in smaller communities like ours instead.

They bring with them varying abilities to speak English.

5.8 percent of the people living in Scott County speak a language other than English while they're at home.

11 percent of people in Rock Island County do the same.

Spanish, Polish, and Vietnamese are all heard in this area.

People who need help are going to call 911 no matter what language they speak.

"When I came over here I know nothing, I learn," says nail salon owner Brian Nguyen.

He moved to the Quad Cities from Vietnam 20 years ago. He spoke no English and had to learn it on the job. First while working at IBP, "I learned, I understand how are you, or what is your name, I was so so happy because it was very exciting to speak English."

Then from his customers in his nail salon. He says learning English that way gets easier after a while, but not everyone picks it up quickly.

"Even if cop stop you, you don't understand, it's hard, people come to translate for you," says Nguyen.

Scott County emergency communications director Brian Hitchcock says, "You can't possibly cover the many different languages out there that are being used, there are tourists who come through the area that may not speak English so you have to draw on a resource that covers all the different languages."

Hitchcock says the County pays for a translator service over the phone. If a call comes in that's not in English, dispatchers can still get help to that person.

"We get this company on the line, we can pull them in on a conference call and it's determined between the dispatcher and the person that is on the other line what language is being used by the person that we're speaking to."

Rock Island County uses the same service. In October they handled seven calls, all in Spanish, that 911 dispatchers could not communicate with. Both counties can use the service out in the field too.

"You may have a police officer that stops somebody that doesn't speak English, we have the capability to pull an interpreter in on that as well," says Hitchcock.

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