Goodyear firefighters use app to reach out to Spanish speakers

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GOODYEAR, Ariz .-- One Valley fire department has figured out a way to help more people without any extra help from taxpayers.

All they need is an app or two.

One of those apps firefighters are using is Duolingo. They're hoping it will help them reach Spanish speakers.

The app quizzes their Spanish and even helps them learn medical terms in Spanish.

Kevin Boyd is just one of the Goodyear firefighters using this app to learn Spanish. After using the app for six months now, he’s learned to speak some Spanish, but said he understands a lot more.

Captain Stephen Gilman said the majority of Goodyear firefighters are not Spanish speakers a problem since Gilman said 15 to 20 percent of their calls involve Spanish speakers.

"Pointing and grunting isn't exactly going to cover our needs," said Gilman.

So the team decided to dedicate time between calls to learn the language with the free app.

They said like many cities, after the recession their training budget was cut, so they had to improvise.

“The more we can teach our members to identify where the pain is like if they are saying ‘tengo dolor en mi pecho’ or tengo mucho presión en mi pecho,’ and if I know my EMT now knows what that means, he is going to help me out as a paramedic," said Gilman.

Gilman said every second counts.

"The less time we actually know what’s going on, the less time we're going to be able to give them that crucial treatment that is necessary," said Gilman.

Cynthia Covarrubias said these firefighters’ efforts makes her think of her Spanish speaking family members if they're ever in an emergency.

"It's nice to know that if they're there they can have someone who can help them out and speak Spanish to them. It's comforting," she said.

When the firefighters are in a crunch and need a translator they said they use Google translate and Speak and Translate apps.

There are a variety of language learning and translating apps you can choose from.