KCDOT works with local consulates to reach Spanish-speaking customers

As part of our commitment to delivering accessible service to all residents of King County, regardless of their place of origin, KCDOT leadership recently met with the local consuls of five Latin American nations to help us improve our communications with Spanish-speaking customers.

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Top row, from left: Leonardo Galvez, Consulate of Peru Director of Communications and KCDOT staff Penny Lara, Victor Obeso, Harold Taniguchi, and Rob Gannon. Bottom row: Paige Shevlin with the King County Executive’s office; Consul of Peru Miguel Angel Velásquez; Consul of Guatemala Ms. Claudia Gatica; Consul of El Salvador Ms. Clary Monzon; and Enrique Payan with the Consulate of Mexico. (photo: Ned Ahrens)

Nearly one of every 10 King County residents is of Hispanic/Latinx origin, according to the last census, and of those who speak Spanish at home, nearly half say they speak English less than “very well.” Language can become a barrier to using public transit, and elements of Metro’s printed bus schedules are now bilingual in Spanish.

Consuls representing the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru met with us at King Street Center, while the Consul of Mexico hosted us in his office. Because the consulates are regarded as trustworthy sources of information for immigrant communities, KCDOT Director Harold Taniguchi opened a frank conversation about how Metro Transit can identify gaps in our services and identify new strategies to reach otherwise isolated communities.

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Consul of Mexico Dr.Roberto Dondisch-Glowinski (2nd from right) with KCDOT staff Jerry Pionk, Penny Lara, Director Harold Taniguchi, and Metro GM Rob Gannon. (photo: Enrique Payan)

Because Metro serves customers at all levels of language proficiency, the consuls urged us to avoid using technical terms in printed materials and stick to simple, clear English – good advice in any respect. When it comes to material in Spanish, bad translations can happen to good agencies; the consuls observed that flawed translation can be worse than none at all, and encouraged us to carefully review materials to ensure accurate communication.

Mexican Consul Roberto Dondisch-Glowinski suggested that Metro translate its social media posts and share them with the consulates, who could then reshare them with their own constituencies via radio, TV, and newspapers.

Clary Monzón, Consul of El Salvador, called the meeting “a great step to involve and serve the Latino community, as we are an integral part of this society.”

“I strongly believe that the men, women, children, and young adults from diverse communities and origins who reside in the State of Washington are grateful for the transportation services available,” added Honduran Consul Edgardo Chávez.

all-welcome-king-countyOur work with the Latin American consulates is a model for how we can work with other immigrant communities to improve and expand our outreach. As Executive Constantine reminds us, “All are welcome here.”

King County is taking part in Hispanic Heritage Month events from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.  A Metro bus is joining the South Park Parade and Community Festival, where food, arts and culture, and free health advice will be offered by Sea Mar Community Health Centers. We’ll also be at the MexAm Northwest Festival in Auburn, and Sea Mar Community Health Centers Fiestas Patrias at Seattle Center.