Language barriers falling

DeWayne Bartels

John Flynn views Peoria as a “fairly cosmopolitan” community.

Flynn, who oversees the Peoria County court system, said that comes with benefits and consequences.

One of the consequences is the ever-growing language barrier among citizens who do not speak English as their primary language, or speak it at all.

With the influence of Caterpillar and other employers, the language barrier in Peoria could be a real issue, but it is not a large problem, according to several people who deal with immigrants and foreign visitors on a regular basis.

“In criminal court, by law, we have to provide interpreters,” Flynn said.

“We have a list of people who interpret, depending on the language. They come in as needed.”

Flynn said the need for interpretation is increasing, especially with a growing Hispanic community, some of whom do not speak English.

“Bradley University and Caterpillar are sometimes resources for us,” Flynn said.

“We can sometimes get into really difficult dialects within a language.”

But breaching the language barrier does not come without a cost. In 2007, Peoria County spent $13,042 for interpreters in 159 criminal cases.

Just up the street from the courthouse Joel Green, director of sales and marketing at the Pere Marquette, said her staff deals with foreign languages on almost a daily basis.

“We generally have desk clerks who are bilingual. We get tripped up sometimes. But, we have contacts at Cat who help,” Green said.

“Cat is extremely helpful. If I have a problem with a client, I go to Cat first.” Green said.

For more on this story see the 6/25/08 issue of the Peiria Times-Observer