By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO
What you say matters to the Red Cross. And in the county of Los Angeles—with 10.2 million residents living across 158 cities and unincorporated areas—what language you say it in matters to us, too.
Los Angeles has the second highest number of languages spoken of a major metropolitan area after New York City [Source: 2015 US Census Bureau Report]. Los Angeles eclipses New York in the number of non-native English speakers with the 10 most commonly spoken languages are English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog (the most common language spoken in the Philippines), Korean, Armenian, Vietnamese, Farsi (the language of Iran), Japanese and Russian.
Here at the Red Cross, we are proud that our volunteers speak over 50 languages. Language diversity is critical as a resource for communicating with our diverse clients. 2427 Los Angeles volunteers self-report as speaking a language other than English. (47% of bilingual volunteers report Spanish as their second language.) In fact, here is a list of all the different languages you can hear in the Red Cross LA offices:
Afrikaans, American Sign Language, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Cambodian, Cantonese, Chinese, Creole, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Farsi, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hakka, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Malayalam, Malaysian, Mandarin, Marathi, Nigerian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, Yiddish, and Yoruba.
As a child of Cuban heritage, I learned Spanish at an early age. But like many second-generation Americans, I had to study it. But knowing Spanish opened up a whole new world for me. For a client in their most vulnerable moment, to be able to communicate in the language they’re most comfortable in can transform their experience with us. That’s why I’m proud to share how many of Red Cross LA volunteers and staff are multilingual.
Check this out. Sandy, an amazing Red Crosser featured in the Farsi video below, actually speaks five languages, including Dutch and French. But we can’t do it alone, which is why I’m inviting you to join us as a Red Cross volunteer. Do you speak a language other than English? There are almost as many ways to help as there are languages spoken in this office, including:
- Help translate the Red Cross website and Prepare SoCal Learn more.
- Respond to disasters, locally or deployed to other regions in need. Learn more.
- Help record informational videos for disaster response. Learn more.
- Teach emergency preparedness to children with the Pillowcase Project. Learn more.
- Become a preparedness educator with Listos, Spanish-language disaster preparedness program. Learn more.
One way to help right now: Volunteering at our Sound the Alarm campaigns, educating communities about fire safety and installing free smoke alarms across LA County.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.