The U.S. population is becoming more and more diverse, which means diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a priority for many organizations. And with nearly 26 million limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals living in the U.S., language access is top of mind when it comes to inclusion and creating strong and unified communities. Here's how language services can help.
Language as the Key to Community Development
Language is an essential part of culture and, therefore, communities. Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan-born American author, puts it best:
...If culture was a house, then language was the key to the front door, to all the rooms inside. Without it, he said, you ended up wayward without a proper home or a legitimate identity." — Khaled Hosseini
In other words, you need the foundation of language to even begin to understand or become a part of a culture. Each culture — and subculture, for that matter — has linguistic intricacies and unique vocabulary that reflect the group's values, ways of thinking, mannerisms, and expected behaviors.
Historically, communities have mostly been comprised of one culture and one language. Even by definition, a community is a "social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage." That shared cultural heritage, of course, includes language.
However, modern-day communities differ from those that existed a few decades ago. Even though communities still have some commonalities, they are becoming increasingly diverse — especially regarding language.
Language Diversity in Communities
According to the 2020 Census, the diversity index for the entire country has increased by over six points since 2010 — and it just keeps rising. Minority groups have actually become the largest racial or ethnic group in some states, such as California and New Mexico.
With this increase in racial and ethnic diversity comes a mix of languages. The number of people who speak a language other than English at home has been steadily increasing since 1980. Now, the most common languages (other than English) include Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic. It's important to note that this data doesn't include American Sign Language. According to a 2022 study, 2.8% of the adult population uses ASL, ranking it among the top five languages other than English.
What this means is that communities are no longer homogenous. People living in the same community, shopping at the same stores, and visiting the same doctors' offices often speak different languages. While this diversity is exciting and beautiful, it can also divide and weaken communities — especially when people struggle to access essential services like healthcare due to a language barrier.
Not only can this result in a disconnect, but it can also leave people with low-quality services. For example, if people don't have the language skills to fully express their medical history and symptoms, medical professionals may misdiagnose conditions or offer the wrong medication. This further divides the community, as people with particular language skills may receive better services.
Language Services: The Solution to Stronger, More Diverse Communities
Communities are only getting more diverse, so companies and organizations need to start providing equal language access now to strengthen communities.
This is already a requirement in many sectors. For example, the Justice Department has established a Language Access Plan to ensure that language is never a barrier to government services. However, the execution of these language services is not always the best. Many organizations only have in-person interpreters available for specific languages, while others often rely on family and friends — who are not certified linguists.
A better option is utilizing a language service provider that offers the entire package: written translation, on-demand linguists, and customized solutions. The on-demand services are especially critical. Instead of trying to find an interpreter and get them in the office on the right day, organizations can sign on to the language service platform and immediately connect with a qualified linguist via phone or video. This makes it easier to adapt to last-minute language needs and better serve your community's entirepopulation, no matter what language they speak.
Provide Excellent Language Services With GLOBO
GLOBO offers everything you need to break language barriers and create stronger communities. We offer both on-demand and scheduled language solutions so you can connect with a certified linguist whenever you need to. The flexibility of our platform ensures you can meet the diverse linguistic needs of those around you.