Long Beach language policy aids limited-English speakers, including Filipinos


Various groups gather in front of the City Hall of Long Beach to press for a “language access” policy. PHOTO BY JOY PRIM

LONG BEACH, California–After two years of campaigning by various organizations for “language access,” the Long Beach city council adopted a language policy to improve immigrants’ access to the city’s services.

Long Beach has an estimated 20,000 Filipinos who are among the city’s nearly 250,000 Latino and Asian residents. Long Beach has a population of roughly 500,000. Some 5,000 Filipinos have limited English proficiency (or speak English less than well).

The coalition began a phone campaign to push Long Beach officials to release the language access policy draft, knowing that the most common languages spoken in the city are other than English, namely Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog.

Long Beach’s adopted language access policy allows room for refinement through quarterly compliance reporting to the city council at public hearings.

The broad coalition is made up of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles; Building Healthy Communities Long Beach; East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice; Housing Long Beach; Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition; Educated Men with Meaningful Messages; Aikona; Filipino Migrant Center; Californians for Justice; United Cambodian Community; and Khmer Girls in Action.

“We realized that there was no real promise for language access for Khmer and Tagalog, and we reacted quickly to what these people need,” stated Alex Montances, Filipino Migrant Center staff representative who attended coalition meetings.

During citywide budget cuts, the council voted to eliminate aid to language access, while non-English-speaking residents continued to attend Long Beach public hearings to address their concerns.

“There were cases of monolingual people, like Khmer, at city meetings and with no interpreter made available by the council,” stated Susanne Browne, senior attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Alex Montances of the Filipino Migrant Center speaking to the City Council of Long Beach in support of translation services. PHOTO BY JOY PRIM

Translators and interpreters are needed to convey information accurately from one language to another in different settings and situations, so that minorities understand basic needs and services in health, work, education, food and housing services.

The LB Language Access Coalition stated that the city’s language policy will help residents become more aware of services, be more interested and less intimidated in city affairs as well as gain more visibility for their ethnicity.

“The truth is that Filipino-Americans in Long Beach are not as visible as they should be in the city,” says Montances. The language access campaign had no Filipino representation until Filipino Migrant Center joined the Long Beach Language Access Coalition in June this year.

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  • Anonymous

    The government must not allow Gloria Arroyo to leave the Philippines in guise of seeking medical treatment abroad because as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west , she will not return to face her cases in court. Her supposed to be affliction ( Hypoparathyroidism ) could be well-managed by Filipino endocrinologists and other specialists right here in the Philippines. Just ask the local MD’s if this is not true.
    Also they can just pay the foreign doctors they are planning to consult to come to the Philippines, cheaper that way , i supposed. Or the gov’t. must require the arroyos to post Bonds(all their properties) which will be forfeited in favor of the gov’t. in case gloria does not return to the Philippines.

    • Anonymous

      “all my bags are packed, i am ready to go”.ang bagong favorite song ng mga arroyo ay LEAVING ON A JET PLANE.babayu….

  • BIGButo

    If you go to a country you should learn there language. Are don’t go to a city meeting to complain

    • Diepor

      Thats what city meetings are for.

    • mark_john21

      I think you better start it yourself now.

      • BIGButo

        I would never go to someone else’s country and complain period. If I didn’t like the country I was in I would just leave and go back to my own country, problem solved. I should not be pushing my complaints in other peoples countries. Either love the country you are a quest in or get out of it and go back to your own country! Its that simple.

    • Ohmrey

      BIGButo, here in America everyone is given a chance to communicate in any language they are capable of and express their thoughts and ideas in the best possible way. YES! We Filipinos must be given a chance and allow to use our first language which is Tagalog. If the Hispanic are allowed to speak and given access in Spanish language, why NOT us Filipinos-to speak in Tagalog language? I think it’s the right time now to give us a chance and opportunity to use our own language-Tagalog both in community and school.

  • Ohmrey

    Good job Alex for stepping up and letting them know that we Filipinos are here in Long Beach, CA to be recognized. Speaking Tagalog or Pilipino must be PUSHED forward in order for us Filipinos express well our thoughts and ideas. Thanks a lot once again Alex.

    • BIGButo

      America belongs to the Americans we do not have the right to tell the Americans or any other nation how to run there countries! Period!

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