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Goodyear Fire using app to help crews communicate

PHOENIX — A free language learning app is quickly becoming the next must-have tool for one Valley fire department.

Crews at Goodyear Fire Department have been using Duolingo to help them learn Spanish in an effort to communicate with their city’s residents more effectively.
Fire Capt. Stephen Gilman said the app has helped crews get a working base to speak with people who speak little to no English.

“They’re able to get the gist of the conversation (and), more importantly, they’re able to provide assistance to that patient,” Gilman said. “Trying to figure out what’s going on, how long it’s been going on, where the pain is at, versus just basically pointing and grunting.”

Gilman said he heard about the app about a year ago and it began to spread through the department through word of mouth. Roughly a quarter of the department is using it, Gilman said.

He said the app hasn’t made anyone completely fluent in Spanish, but has given many of them enough of a grip to communicate in critical situations.

“When somebody’s speaking a foreign language and trying to describe chest pain and nobody knows what’s going on, it makes it much more difficult,” Gilman said.

Users navigate through various exercises that cover skills such as vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking.

Gilman said parts of the app even deal specifically with medical terminology.

“Portions of the program, as you go on further down, that deal specifically with medical,” he said. “A lot of our guys have found those helpful.”

Having the opportunity to learn a language and through a free program has been very helpful to the department Gilman said, because the department cannot afford to pay to teach crews a second language and similar programs can cost hundreds of dollars.