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Sarah Mariano

Front doors to the Municipal Service Building.

Introduction T

here is an estimated 1,550,000 people living in Philadelphia. Out of all of people living in Philadelphia an estimated 25% -35% speak another language. It is unclear exactly how many of those people speak a language that is not English or can speak English and another language, but the language barrier within Philadelphia City Government has become a problem. In 2000 President Bill Clinton passed the Executive Order 13166. This order helps citizens with limited English skills in reading, writing, or speaking communicate with government officials. This way, if any business owner or newly accepted foreign citizens have a problem, they have the ability to talk to their officials about it.

David Torres D

avid Torres is the director and project manager of Global Philadelphia and the city department liaison for Global Philadelphia Ambassadors. As director, it is his job to make sure that everything within Global Philadelphia runs smoothly for its participants. “20 years ago, anyone who couldn’t speak English and wanted to start a business was basically out of luck. Sure, they found ways of getting what they wanted, but the process took much longer. With Global Philadelphia, the process is made easier. Until 13166 was passed, no city government operated building had to help a non-English speaking citizen. However, now that we are obligated to help everyone by law, the game has changed.”


side from English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Russian are among some of the most commonly used languages in the world. Global Philadelphia offers help with the 25 most commonly used languages and counting. To help break the language barrier, the first step for all non-English speaking citizens is the Pointing System. The person is to point to their native language on a big board, which says, “Point here,� in all languages. From there the security guard uses a smaller Point and Go chart to help the person on their way to the second location.


ach station has it’s own purpose. Anyone, English speaking or none, can come to pay their bills, start a business, ect. No one can be turned away for lack of communication skills.


ince most of the tellers only speak English, each window has its own mini Point and Go chart.

Santina Bellamy S

antina Bellamy, a citizen who immigrated from Franc, speaks two languages and neither of them is English. Typically a teller would assist Bellamy with whatever she needs help with, but since she is a friend of the family, Torres took her as a personal case. Bellamy want to know what she has to do in order for her to get the rest of her family to use Global Philadelphia and ask some question about how her father can start his own restaurant.

Language Access Card


he Language Access Card is a little blue card that is similar to the Point and Go boards. On one side of the card is in English and the other side whatever language the user understands. The card givers instructions on how to contact any of the government buildings at City Hall. Outside of all buildings that use Global Philadelphia the Language Access Card is next to useless. Although it does help tell others that the user cannot communicate well, the only other purpose of it would be to ask as stranger for help.

Comments “This program was very helpful. It was a little confusing, but I got a hang of it. Now my daughter doesn’t have to do everything for me.” - Lung Kew, Mandarin

“This makes me want to learn English. That ways I wont be so confused and feel like I’m taking up these peoples time.” - David Hernandez, Spanish

“I can’t wait to get my family into this program. It’s very helpful and should help my family a lot.” - Santina Bellamy, French

Philadelphia Speaks  

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