Cultures & immigration beat: What languages are in big demand?

  • Article by: Allie Shah
  • Star Tribune
  • April 24, 2012 - 11:33 PM

A recent report from one of the largest language translation companies in the country offers a fascinating look at the assortment and popularity of mother tongues spoken across the land.

Not surprising, Spanish remains the most requested language for over-the-phone interpretations in the 20 largest U.S. cities, according to the report by Language Line Services, which serves hospitals as well as law enforcement and government agencies.

The California-based company analyzed interpreter requests, from the beginning of 2011 to the beginning of 2012. The findings were issued this week.

After Spanish, the most requested languages for interpretation in the largest cities were Arabic, Vietnamese and Mandarin.

In addition, the study found that some languages showed significant growth in certain cities. For example, Somali interpretation requests were up by more than 100 percent in Phoenix and 92 percent in Memphis. Meanwhile, Burmese has emerged as the most requested language for interpretation, after Spanish, in Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Fla.

Also in Jacksonville, requests for Haitian were up by 76 percent, the study found.

In El Paso, Texas, the fastest-growing languages were Farsi, Amharic and Korean, according to translation requests.

Minnesota is home to a distinctive array of refugee and immigrant communities. Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Vietnamese and Russian top the list of most requested languages for interpretation in Minneapolis, the report found. Although requests for over-the-phone translations were down overall here from 2011 to 2012.

Carla Collado, a spokeswoman for Language Line Services, said the LanguageTrak report analyzed 20 million phone interpreter requests fielded by the company over a year's time. More than 170 languages were spoken. While the business has been collecting data for years, it only recently began issuing quarterly reports tracking growth trends.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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