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August 9, 2015

Important tips for improving business communications with diverse populations

by brenton

The image of the United States as a melting pot has existed since the 18th Century, but today, it is our reality. From large metropolitan cities to small rural towns, the existence of native populations mixed with an influx of immigrants and refugees has not only enriched the cultural landscape in Middle America but also created challenges for these evolving communities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 55 million people in the United States speak a language other than English in their homes and may face communication barriers when accessing services in their day-to-day lives. Whether it’s a routine visit to the doctor, filing a police report, or consulting a legal professional, individuals with limited English proficiency may have trouble communicating effectively and obtaining the assistance they need. The following tips will assist services providers from all sectors improve their communication with diverse populations.

Analyze the demographics of the population you serve. If you provide services in a limited geographic region, research the languages spoken in the home to identify the languages most commonly spoken as well as less common but potentially challenging languages. A thorough study of your customer’s language needs will help you to prepare in advance for potential encounters. The Modern Language Association has an excellent online language mapping tool to help identify the languages in any given region.

Develop a Language Access Policy for your organization. Having guidelines and resources available for staff will help them provide the highest level of service to a broader segment of the population. Organizations that receive federal funding are required to have such policies in place and enforced, and privately owned businesses should also adhere as a best practice.

For languages you will encounter most frequently, have commonly used documents professionally translated. Forms, notices, signage and other important written communications should be professionally translated and edited for linguistic accuracy and cultural relevance.

For oral communication, utilize a trained, qualified interpreter who specializes in the subject matter. Professional interpreters follow a strict code of ethics and have extensive training.

Ensuring effective communication with all your customers or constituents will not only save you time and money in the long run, but will also help you maintain a positive image in the communities you serve.

Contact us for more information on how Keylingo can help you improve communication with your customers.

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