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What Is a Language Bank?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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A language bank is an organization or institution that provides language services to a community. Generally, the language bank is a place where either volunteers or paid translators and interpreters provide translation and interpretation for various visitors. This sort of public service is often funded by local government, where the staff may be volunteering or working for a low wage.

The term “language bank” may be confusing to some people, because some may use it to refer to an educational tool in language learning, or a linguistic concept. By its popular definition, though, the language bank is not simply a bank of language items, or a list of words. This kind of resource is commonly called a lexicon. It’s important to distinguish the common usage of the term “language bank” from its appropriation by some individuals to refer to a set of written language resources.

Language banks are often seen as a community service venue. For instance, some immigrants or expatriates of other countries may come to language banks to get core language services for surviving in a new country. Language banks may be places where translators and interpreters assist foreign families with a range of applications for public services, as well as access to education, transportation or other necessities.

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To understand the roles of language banks, those who want to know how this kind of institution works can contrast it with the ways that language services are provided by private companies in general. For example, hospitals are often perceived as public resources, but in some countries, hospital networks are not public, but rather private, where private-sector leadership deals with offering access to those who don’t speak a regional language. In these cases, rather than utilize a language bank, the leadership frequently hires paid professionals to roam within the network providing translation and interpretation services. The same model can be used by private sector firms providing relocation assistance or other services for immigrants.

As an institution, the language bank differs according to the country and region where it is located. Those who arrive in a country without speaking its primary language can get more information about language banks from the local government or other appropriate sources. Finding a language bank can be a way to effectively start communicating in a foreign country without knowing the language. This might include assistance with filling out government forms, or understanding other documents, such as a lease agreement, for example.

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