Roanoke overcomes language barrier | Government and politics


The system offers video conferencing as an additional function. This means that city employees who have password access to the Volatia app can choose a video conference instead of an audio call if they wish. When a resident in need of assistance is physically present, video can be the solution.

A faster protocol provides interpretation for the 911 system to avoid delaying the caller report.

Hedrick, the program director, said it could take some time for city staff and users of city services to become familiar with how the system works. A training phase has started and will continue, including the posting of a video to explain the system to members of the community.

Hedrick demonstrated the system on Friday using an iPad tablet stationed in the lobby of the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building. She selected Swahili from a language menu with the tap of a finger. Unbeknownst to the users, the software called a Swahili interpreter to answer the call.

In a few moments, Evans Otieno appeared via video conference from Nairobi, Kenya. When he found out his location, Hedrick mentioned that one of the twin cities of the Roanoke Valley is Kisumu, Kenya.

“This is my hometown,” said Otieno.

Roanoke is a longstanding refugee resettlement area where many languages ​​are spoken. In addition to Swahili, a language spoken in Africa, the foreign languages ​​commonly spoken in Roanoke include Spanish, Dari, Haitian Creole, Nepali and Arabic, Hedrick said. There are 7,000 languages ​​in the world, of which Volatia claims to offer 286.

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