Wanted: Foreign-Language Speakers in Washington State

Consider the facts:

  • 8% of Washington’s population is defined as LEP (Limited English Proficient)
  • Of these, nearly 50% are Spanish speakers.
  • Chinese is next most common.

Our students' futures are at risk:

  • ELLs (English Language Learners) make up 8.8% of total enrollment in Washington State schools.
  • Spanish is the primary language for 67% of ELLs.
  • Latinos represent approximately 14% of the K-12 population, yet only 4.2% of corresponding students enrolled in Washington four-year public universities.
  • Only 56.5% of Latinos graduated from high school in 2006 in Washington, below an overall national average of 70.6% for all students.

Washington State is committed to addressing the needs of students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds, including migratory children. This includes helping students achieve English competency, teaching concepts and knowledge in students’ primary language, and communicating with parents.

Our population is at greater medical risk:

  • Patients with Medicaid qualify for DSHS-certified, state-funded interpreters, but these requests do not always get fulfilled.
  • The uninsured and privately insured may have even less access to interpreters.

Even intermediate fluency in a language can be an asset in a medical practice—helping you reach more people and put them at ease.  If you’re thinking about serving as a volunteer with a medical organization, foreign language and culture classes can help you prepare.

If you plan to reside in Washington state after graduation, or in the greater Portland area, knowledge of any foreign language, especially Spanish, will likely be a major asset to your career, whether you work as an educator, a medical professional, or any other field.