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Long Beach language plan includes Spanish and Khmer, but not Tagalog or Vietnamese

Prach Ly stands in front of a restaurant in Long Beach's Cambodia Town
Prach Ly stands in front of a restaurant in Long Beach's Cambodia Town
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Long Beach's plan to better assist the 21 percent of its residents who don't speak English well has drawn criticism that it doesn't do enough to help the city's population of Filipino and Vietnamese residents.

The current proposal calls for language assistance in Spanish and in Khmer, the language spoken by the city's Cambodian population. But the plan's lack of services for Filipino speakers of Tagalog, or those who speak Vietnamese, will be the focus of a rally before Tuesday's council meeting to review the plan.

The city rolled out a draft plan in July, outlining services for the 13 percent of residents that speak mostly Spanish. A 1973 state law requires cities to provide assistance to non-English speakers if they number 5 percent or more of the population.

After some protest, officials included the Cambodian language Khmer, spoken by another 2 percent of residents.

But the Long Beach Language Access Coalition wants the city to delay approving the plan until it includes the Filipino language, Tagalog, which is spoken by 1 percent of residents. The coalition also wants the city to implement a phone translation service for those who speak Vietnamese and other languages.

"Long Beach is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, but we don't have consistent policies to make sure that Limited English Proficient residents have access to the city," said Susanne Brown, an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Long Beach already spends some $900,000 annually on bilingual services, a city report said. Adopting the language plan for Spanish and Khmer would cost an additional $657,000.