With Nearly 10 Percent Of Nashville Residents Uneasy With English, Metro Studies Language Services | Nashville Public Radio

With Nearly 10 Percent Of Nashville Residents Uneasy With English, Metro Studies Language Services

Feb 6, 2017

Nashville is home to a growing number of residents who speak English “less than very well.” By the latest Metro estimate, it’s nearly 10 percent of residents, meaning that more than 60,000 people are conversing in Spanish, Arabic, Somali or other languages.

With that change in mind, the Metro Human Relations Commission spent the past year studying whether city departments are doing enough to serve linguistic minorities, including the deaf and hard of hearing.

The result: Metro has “a real need for a language access plan.”

That could mean more interpreters or other policy changes. And the commission plans to take a deeper look at whether Metro is complying with the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Among the findings:

  • Since 2000, those who speak English “less than very well” has increased from 4.7 to 9.6 percent of residents.
  • About one-third of Metro agencies assign a staff member to assess and improve services for linguistic minorities and just under half have a bilingual staff member or a contract with an interpretive service.
  • A fourth of Metro agencies advertise their work in non-English media.

This chart shows how Metro departments and extensions attempt to serve linguistic minorities.
Credit Metro Human Relations Commission

Four Metro agencies scored high in all four of the study’s categories: Emergency Communications (911), the Nashville Fire Department, the Davidson County Juvenile Court and the Nashville Public Library.

Among those, the library system sees some of the highest interaction with non-English speakers. The Health Department and Metro Social Services are also accessed often, and did not score quite as high.

Metro Human Relations said the study followed 2015 census data, which showed the number of foreign-born residents living in Nashville has nearly doubled since 2000. Middle Tennessee is also home to more than 200,000 people with hearing loss.

The full report can be viewed online: Metro Language Access Report (PDF).