Special Patrons

Helpful phrases in many languages

On the following pages are short lists of some of the most common expressions you might need in working with non-English-speaking patrons.

You can try showing your patrons the column for their language, or use the pronunciation key and try the language yourself.

Don't worry if you don't have perfect pronunciation. Good communication can take place anyway. Your patrons will most likely appreciate your efforts.

On the MELSA Website you can also find translations for 11 languages of English words, phrases, and sentences commonly used in public libraries. Each document covers General Information (e.g. "You will need a library card to borrow items."), Common Needs (Restroom, Water fountain, and Telephone), Common Phrases, Services, Items you may borrow, and Emergency. Each document is in pdf format, just over 3 MB in size, for easy printing. Languages included are Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, Hmong, Laotian, Russian, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Non-English LANGUAGE reference request FORMS

After each helpful phrase form is a sample of a form you can use to take a question from a non-English speaking patron.

Before you use this form, or one like it, be sure to check with your supervisor to find out how your own library recommends handling the completed forms. There may be special procedures or a certain place where you should send the form.

Please remember to be sensitive to patrons who prefer not to write their own questions.

Go to Helpful phrases in Chinese.

Back to Methods for communicating with patrons from other cultures.

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This page was updated on November 20, 2003.