Harrisonburg Vice Mayor says interpreters at council meetings a 'top priority'

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Vice Mayor of Harrisonburg is working to get language interpreters at all council meetings.

In an interview with WHSV, Sal Romero explained that the need for interpreters in Harrisonburg is great due to the growing population of people who speak English as a second language.

Romero said there are more than 60 languages spoken in city schools and the most common are Spanish, Arabic and Kurdish.

"It's important for anyone that lives in our community to have direct access to government," said Romero. "I, as a language learner, understand that language can be a barrier."

Romero plans to bring the idea to council at the meeting on May 4, with the hope to implement the program at the following meeting.

"We're going to advertise for anyone in this community who has a desire to interpret at 20-25 dollars an hour, we haven't determined that yet," said Romero. "We are looking for someone who is highly qualified, who has had training in interpretation, and more specifically in what is called simultaneous interpretation."

Simultaneous interpretation is when an interpreter converts what is being said in real time.

At the last meeting, Harrisonburg city council unanimously voted that language support at council meetings is a top priority for the city.