(CBS) – The 10,000 to 12,000 people who use the Cook County court system speak 71 different languages.
But English is the only language you’ll find on the signs, directions and documents.
All that changes this week. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on a new system that breaks the language barrier.
Mareya Alba escorts her mom to court to help with her father’s case. Her mother only speak Spanish, and Mareya has to interpret.
“Sometimes they change the courtroom and they put signs, but she doesn’t understand the sign like because it’s in English,” the daughter says.
The solution lies in a phone. It sits at the information desk in the Daley Building. When a non-English-speaking person asks for help, the clerk makes a call to company called Language Line Solutions.
When an interpreter answers, the person gets the phone.
“This is a simple way for them to have access to their system, whether they speak the language or not,” says Chief Judge Tim Evans.
He allocated $19,000 from his budget for phones at the Daley Center and eight other courthouses.
Attorney Michael Zink has seen too many of his Polish-speaking clients miss court dates or show up late because they don’t speak English.
“This will certainly not only tell them where to go in some cases it will probably tell what to do,” he says.
The court provides interpreters inside a court room, but the phones help with directions and other issues. The phones are already in the Daley Center. By the end of the year, they’ll be available in eight other courthouses, including the criminal courthouse.