San Francisco Declares Vietnamese an Official Language

In a landmark decision, San Francisco has added Vietnamese to its roster of official languages. This change, effective as of June 11, 2024, follows the city’s recent amendments to the Language Access Ordinance, which reduced the population threshold required for a language to gain official status from 10,000 to 6,000 speakers. With 6,791 Vietnamese speakers with limited English proficiency, Vietnamese now joins Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino as one of the city’s official languages.

This decision mandates that the city must provide translated materials and services in Vietnamese. This includes vital communications from city websites, public meeting materials, and essential documents such as bills from the tax collector and Public Utilities Commission. The move aims to enhance accessibility for San Francisco’s significant Vietnamese-speaking community, ensuring they receive important information in their native language.

Jorge Rivas Jr., the executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, emphasized the city’s commitment to diversity. “In San Francisco, one in three residents is an immigrant, and nearly 43% of our population over the age of 5 speaks a language other than English at home,” Rivas stated in the introduction to the 2024 language access compliance report. “Recognizing our diversity is fundamental to ensuring that public services cater to the needs of all residents.”

The Language Access Ordinance amendments not only lower the speaker threshold, but also underscore San Francisco’s status as a leader in language accessibility. The city’s ordinance is touted as one of the strongest local language laws in the nation. Despite this, the most recent compliance report indicated that only 4.91% of translated materials were in Vietnamese during the 2022-2023 fiscal year. This highlights a gap in service that the new ordinance aims to address.

The ordinance also addresses the need for increased bilingual staffing to support these services. There has been a noted decline in bilingual staff across city departments, prompting the city to prioritize the recruitment and retention of bilingual employees. This initiative is crucial to removing barriers to participation for non-English-speaking residents and enhancing their ability to engage with city services and civic life.

This development underscores San Francisco’s dedication to inclusivity and represents a significant step forward in supporting its diverse immigrant communities. With Vietnamese now recognized as an official language, thousands of residents will have improved access to essential information and services, fostering greater civic engagement and community participation.

MultiLingual Staff
MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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