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San Francisco declares Vietnamese an official language

San Francisco declares Vietnamese an official language

Thursday, June 13, 2024, 14:57 GMT+7
San Francisco declares Vietnamese an official language
San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton speaks on the steps of City Hall on June 11, 2024 alongside community-based language access advocates on the topic of Vietnamese becoming an official language in the city. Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco in California State on Tuesday voted unanimously to formally declare Vietnamese an official language of the city, thereby making it a requirement to provide translation services for Vietnamese speakers there.

Along with other amendments to San Francisco’s language access ordinance, the move aims to ensure that residents can be served in the language they are most comfortable with, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the same day.

Under the ordinance, which was enacted in 2001, the city’s departments are required to offer translation services into any language with at least 10,000 speakers in the municipality who have limited English proficiency.

Tuesday’s amendment lowered the threshold to 6,000, thus qualifying Vietnamese for inclusion in the city’s official languages thanks to the 6,791 San Francisco residents who identify as primarily Vietnamese speakers, the newspaper said, citing the city’s language data dashboard.

As such, Vietnamese will join Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino as the languages in which the city must offer translated services as per the ordinance.

That means San Francisco will now have to provide telephonic interpretations, website text, written notices, and other official services in Vietnamese.

The draft amendment was initiated last year by San Francisco’s District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who advised that the city expand language access to facilitate its immigrant communities participating in the government process.

“San Francisco is home to many diverse immigrant communities and is a national leader in providing language access services with one of the strongest and most comprehensive local language access laws,” Walton said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

For those who support the move, the latest change is essential for efforts to address language access difficulties.

It also serves as a reminder about complying with regulations on language assistance for immigrants, for some once complained about the city’s staff not providing services in Spanish.

On the other hand, promoting services in languages other than English is considered important to meet the requirements on fair treatment of immigrants in accessing welfare and benefits.

Currently, some immigrant communities of African or Caribbean origin are still facing difficulty using services in San Francisco.

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Vinh Tho - Nhat Dang / Tuoi Tre News


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