Yellowstone National Park has hired three Mandarin-speaking rangers to help with communication amid a growing number of Chinese tourists.
Rich Jehle, Yellowstone’s South District resource education ranger, told The Billings Gazette that the park discovered last summer that it would be helpful to have Mandarin speakers on staff.
“We have all kinds of basic safety publications in different languages,” said Jehle. “But it’s different having someone who can speak directly to a visitor.”
The new hires are interpretive rangers, meaning that they provide information about the park’s resources, lead guided walks, and roam popular areas to talk informally to visitors. The bilingual rangers can also interpret during emergencies.
One of the new rangers, Evan Hubbard, studied in China for two years.
“It’s great to show the Chinese visitors my country, after they showed me theirs,” said Hubbard. “They are coming here and everything that is so familiar to us is completely foreign to them.”
Hubbard said the Chinese tourists are often looking to other Yellowstone visitors for cues on how to behave and sometimes run afoul of park regulations. In those instances, he steps in so the tourists know the rules.
But Hubbard’s job isn’t only about rule enforcement.
“The more fun interaction is hearing Chinese speakers while I’m out roving and I will give them a greeting and their eyes will light up,” he said. “Usually it’s their first time here and they are excited to have this unique opportunity.”
Yellowstone doesn’t track visitation by nation of origin and is relying instead on a perceived increase in Chinese visitors. Chinese visitation to the U.S. increased by 451 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Jehle said the three Mandarin-speaking rangers were hired from a pool of about 10 applicants. Two are Caucasians who taught in China, said Jehle, and one is a Chinese resident who just became a U.S. citizen.
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