The reasons for Houston being a multicultural city are many. The city is a major port. It has several strong industries and a number of academic institutions. It has one of the youngest populations in the United States because of the inflow of immigrants into the State of Texas. There are some 400,000 undocumented people who are located in city where more than 90 languages are spoken.
Based on 2010 Census figures, there are 2.1 million people living in Houston, made up of 26% non-Hispanic Whites, 24% African Americans, while 0.7% are American Indians, 6% are Asians and 0.1% are Pacific Islanders. About 44% of the population of Houston are Hispanics.
Arabic Language Immersion School
The planned additional school will be located at 812 W. 28th St. and will start in school year 2015-2016. The focus will be on Modern Standard Arabic, which will be taught in two pre-kindergarten and two kindergarten classes. The HISD will be adding a new grade level each year until students reach Grade Five.
In a statement released by Dr. Terry Grier, the HISD Superintendent, he said that Houston has a firm economic relationship with the Middle East and the city is also one of the leaders in energy industries in the world, with several international businesses that are in the gas and oil sector. This fact created a substantial demand in the city for fluency in the Arabic language.
Additional language school, perhaps
With its diversity, increasing the number of bilingual students in Houston is still perceived as moving slowly. There is still a substantial number of students that have limited proficiency in English or are still in the process of learning English. Currently several foreign languages are still commonly spoken at home. Here are the top ten:
Spanish is spoken by 58,365 people or about 92% of students while Arabic comes second with 855 speakers, representing 1.3%. This is followed by Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, Nepali, Swahili, French, Urdu, Amharic and Tigrinya.
Language initiative in other areas
There is a great distance between Houston and Pocatello, Idaho. By land, the distance is about 28 hours and yet, the diversity is quite similar. The Pocatello community had to be flexible to meet the changes that are happening in their area. Like Houston, there are plenty of immigrants in Pocatello and they have to adapt to this so that the language barrier could be eliminated.
The Pocatello Police Department’s Captain Roger Schei is very proud that many of his officers are bilingual, with some even fluent in Thai.
He said that his officers often use a phone interpreting service so that their conversations with people who cannot speak English could be translated over the phone. Other officers install translator apps on their cellphones.
There is also an increase in patients who are non-English speakers at Portneuf Medical Center and the hospital maintains Spanish speaking in-house interpreters and also uses a phone service for the rest of the languages. The initiative had greatly benefitted the patients because there are no delays in care as the communication between doctor and patient is made clear, according to Admission Manager Heather McKinley of the Portneuf Medical Center.
Initiatives like these are of great help to the United States and its populace, where thousands upon thousands of immigrants with varying degrees of English language proficiency continuously flock.