Spanish, Tagalog languages growing in Red Deer

A rising number of Filipino and Spanish speaking residents in Red Deer has prompted organizations to change the way they communicate with the public.

A rising number of Filipino and Spanish speaking residents in Red Deer has prompted organizations to change the way they communicate with the public.

While English and French are the official languages, leaders are adding Spanish and Tagalog (Filipino) translations into written and online documents because so many people use these languages as their mother tongue.

The City of Red Deer’s Social Planning Department finished a report in 2008 on the city’s demographics and socio-economic trends. It found that while Anglophones or English-speaking residents make up the vast majority of Red Deer residents, that majority is declining.

The decrease is largely due to the significant number of immigrants moving to Red Deer.

The report, using Statistics Canada statistics from 1991 to 2006, identified Spanish and Chinese as the two most popular non-official languages spoken at home in Red Deer until 2006, when Tagalog emerged in second spot behind Spanish.

“If you look at it from 1991, the trend has been for Spanish to be in the top one or two,” said City of Red Deer community researcher Franklin Kutuadu.

Kutuadu said there are no plans within Social Planning to offer programs in these languages or to focus on programs specific to these two cultures.

Elsewhere, there appears to be movement towards using Red Deer’s most popular non-official languages to distribute information.

Recently, two candidates in the Oct. 18 municipal election provided Spanish and Tagalog translations on their campaign websites.

Peter Copple, a consultant overseeing the Crime Prevention and Policing Review, said a print survey will be done in Spanish and Tagalog. Those forms will be dropped off sometime in mid-November at a few yet-to-be-determined sites.

Spanish and Tagalog translations may be incorporated into the online survey as well.

City of Red Deer communications co-ordinator Leslie Chivers said the city may change its website to include Tagalog and Spanish as part of plans to improve the online service.

Veena Chandra, executive director of Central Alberta Refugee Effort, said a number of their clients speak one of these two languages, so she can see why it’s on the radar for those disseminating information.

Chandra said many Filipinos come to Canada already knowing English, but having access “to your first language brings more understanding” to an issue.

Although some Spanish words are similar to English, Saul Avalos, formerly of El Salvador, said having documents in Spanish will go a long way to making the Spanish community “feel like we are important.”

“Translating into Spanish is very hard. I had a headache because I could understand little English,” said Julia Escobar, who arrived eight months ago from El Salvador.

Red Deer Public Library director Dean Frey said based on customer interactions, Spanish and Tagalog are the most popular languages beyond English.

“We do a fair number of programs in those languages and a few others,” said Frey. “It’s an important part of our marketing strategy.”

The library offers a foreign film collection, brochures on library membership in a half dozen languages and has a number of DVDs in various languages.

Parkland Regional Library provides a provincial service offering an international book collection in more than 29 languages. The books, which are transferred in and out on a regular basis, are on the second floor of Red Deer’s downtown branch.

“This is our chance to keep our multilingual collections fresh,” said Frey.

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