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Non-English speakers encouraged to language line

Non-English speakers encouraged to use language line

The Government's new 35-language telephone interpreting service is showing early signs of success, with capacity to spare, Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter said today.

In figures released today by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Language Line had fielded more than 2000 calls to the six government agencies supporting the scheme, since it began on April 30 this year.

"That's a good start but the figures suggest that there are a lot of non-English-speaking people out there still not using the scheme," Mr Carter said. "I'm asking everybody involved with migrants and other affected people to tell them about Language Line, the message needs to filter through."

Work and Income, the New Zealand Immigration Service, Housing New Zealand Corporation, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Accident Compensation Commission and police had expected double the number of calls over the 16 weeks the scheme has been running.

Mandarin was the most requested language with 646 calls, followed by Samoan (207), Cantonese (201) and Korean (169). Mandarin and Cantonese made up close to half of all Language Line requests to date.

Cabinet is due to review Language Line later this year to decide whether to continue it beyond the one-year pilot period.

"It would be a shame if Language Line, a service modelled on a successful, long-running Australian equivalent, was discontinued next year, through lack of use," Mr Carter said.

A radio campaign targeting all ethnic and access radio stations nationwide is due to start in September to raise awareness of Language Line.

In 1996 census statistics, 250,000 people in New Zealand were of a non-English-speaking background, and 50,000 could not speak English or had a very poor command of the language.

ENDS

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