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What? No Esperanto?

Up Front


MISS THE OLD COUNTRY? Hanker for a little friendlier treatment from the bank where you stash your cash? More and more, customers are finding that their neighborhood automated teller lets them gavarit pa' russki or parlare italiano.

Major banks on both coasts have long given customers a Spanish-language option on ATMs. But multiculturalism is now making bigger inroads. Chemical Bank recently started offering Polish at ATMs in Brooklyn, N.Y., while Midtown Manhattan customers can press the screen for guidance in Russian--an option introduced for some customers in the diamond trade on 47th Street. Nine languages are available, but the Chemical machines offer only three at a time, with English and Spanish on all screens and the third varying in accordance with the neighborhood.

Citibank has offered five languages to U.S. customers on all domestic ATMs for a number of years, but non-U.S. customers see 12 languages pop up whenever and wherever they dip their cards--even in the U.S. And American customers stopping at a Citibank outlet abroad can also choose from the 12--among them Hungarian, Greek, and a blend of Mandarin and Cantonese. In California, Bank of America and Wells Fargo report that they offer only English and Spanish, but they are looking at ways to offer other languages.Karen Pennar

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