The City is excited to announce the Translation Services Expansion project, the latest effort to improve language access on, with Spanish and Chinese translations now available.

The project is led by the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) and the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) and was made possible through the City’s Operation Transformation Fund which helps support transformative projects that benefit Philadelphians and improve government efficiency.

Language accessibility a top priority

Philadelphia is not only a World Heritage City and a Certified Welcoming City, but we are home to dozens of languages. Nearly a quarter of Philadelphians speaks a language other than English at home. This makes it essential to prioritize equity through language access.

Since 2016, the Kenney administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring all people have access to City services and information by launching Language Access Philly. This is a citywide program designed to bridge the language access gap through policy, translation, and interpretation services.

Since then, every City department has prepared and implemented plans that promote access to City services for persons with limited English proficiency.

Last year, the City announced the release of the Language Service Usage Dashboard, an interactive tool that illustrates the preferred language services used by residents when accessing City programs, and an important milestone in the City’s efforts to understand the language landscape in Philadelphia.

Recently, the City released the Language Help Here! Campaign to increase awareness of telephonic interpretation available to public employees when interacting with linguistically diverse community members.

About the Translation Services Expansion project

The Translation Services Expansion project was started to assess and enhance the City’s language services using new protocols, improved guidelines, and community engagement strategies.

As part of the pre-work to translate the website, OIA created language access surveys to understand how to make the best impact for each language community. The team hosted eleven focus groups at local libraries with participants representing 10 different languages and 39 countries of origin, and engaged ESL learners, university scholars, newcomers at the City’s Welcoming Center, nonprofit organizations, and other members of the public.

Using community feedback and sophisticated digital tools, OIT and OIA worked with linguists from a translation vendor to create a citywide glossary and make it possible to conduct a total revision of the website. New features on the site include a new language navigation bar that streamlines the request for translation to the City’s language access providers. This allows for quality upgrades or revisions directly from the vendor and enables content creators to have a large majority of their content translated immediately and with no additional effort.

The project also funded a Translation Services Coordinator position to manage the community engagement process and update the city’s glossary based on feedback from users, as well as a Software Engineer to help develop the technical processes behind the project and its implementation.

How we’re prioritizing equitable practices

All Operations Transformation Funds projects uphold equity as a priority. The Translation Services Expansion team is required to communicate all observations, insights, and feedback from focus groups and community engagement efforts to inform translations.

The team is also receiving consultation for equitable practices as a part of the Equitable Engagement Toolkit pilot. This cross-departmental collaboration allows the project team to use tools and engage with experts and discussions in a community of practice.

Another important element of this project is a focus on supporting Black immigrants in the city. While 1 in 5 immigrants in Philadelphia identifies as Black or Afro-descended, they are often the least resourced immigrant groups. Many African and Caribbean organizations have campaigned to this effect in the City, therefore, the City is working to target Black immigrants and the organizations who serve them as part of its community outreach strategy, including those in racially mixed language communities (e.g. French or Arabic).

What to expect next

In the coming months, users can anticipate a second phase of the project with translations in seven additional languages including Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, and Vietnamese, making the City’s website available in nine languages total.