York’s Transportation is Now Multilingual
From El Diario
April 07, 2004
By Ruth E. Hernández Beltrán
The growth of immigration has converted New York’s public
transportation system – the largest in the country – into
a multilingual space where information is given to travelers in
nine languages, including Spanish.
At the beginning of the 1980s,
when the Hispanic community was began to be
very visible, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began to translate
some materials into Spanish, several years after the city began offering
Today public announcements, changes in the
routes of subways and buses, new routes, closed stations, interrupted
services, and information
and disabled passengers, are made available in English, Spanish, Chinese,
French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese, the
most recent addition.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority,
established in 1965, also publishes advertisements in Spanish magazines.
Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists can also acquire Metrocards,
which permit access to all the subways, buses, and railroads, in
machines located in various metro stations.
The Metropolitan Transportation
Authority operates the largest public transportation system in
the United States, which moves about 8 million people a day. The
system serves one of every three users of public transportation in the United
States, and two of every three train passengers nationwide.
“At the beginning of the 1980s we started with Spanish,
and the first advertisements were directed towards those that were
the public audience. The sheet with information
about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority network has also been in
a long time, said Alicia Martínez, the authority’s director
of marketing and communications.
“In the last few years, the advertisements have been published
in other languages. What you can see in the subways and buses is
the response to the languages
spoken in the city. It indicates the patterns of immigration; Spanish
continues to be the principle language,” since 28 percent
of the population of New York is Hispanic, said Martínez.
languages offered vary depending on the area. A person who visits
famous Chinatown, for instance, will take note of signs and other materials
For tourists, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says “Welcome” in
nine different languages, at the bottom of the subway map. The routes
continued to be listed only in English, though, because of the complexity
the system. “Only the welcome is in every language, to tell them
that we know they are visiting us, but the map can’t be translated
into nine languages,” said Martínez.
The most recent translated
advertisement from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is for
its new product “Cityticket,” a pilot program
for traveling on Saturdays and Sundays in the city, at the cost of
$2.50. The ads are only being translated into Spanish, “because
the program affects many Spanish neighborhoods.”
“Latinos are the largest group in New York, and we want
to make sure that the community can understand our messages,” said
Martínez, who clarified
that not all the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s
advertisements are translated; some are only published in English
and others only in English
“Discounts for senior citizens, who pay half price, this is important,
and it is necessary to let everyone know. We don’t have all the space in
the world to include all the languages, though, so we have to start with those
who are in the majority,” said Martínez.
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Translated from Spanish by Joshua Brustein