The United States is an incredibly diverse country, and that means that millions of people speak various languages in their daily lives. Many types of organizations have legal obligations to accommodate those of different linguistic backgrounds, but it’s not uncommon to be falling short.
This is why creating a Language Access Program is a great idea. It sets a process in place to ensure that your organization has the linguistic resources when they’re needed.
Who Needs a Language Access Program?
There are all kinds of organizations who can benefit from a Language Access Program, but most groups fall into one of three categories: local governments, businesses/organizations, or schools.
- Local governments: Your residents and constituents need to be able to find out critical and useful information no matter what language they speak. Your website should be available in as many relevant languages as possible, and interpreters should be available when necessary.
- Businesses and organizations: You may or may not be required by law to have information available in the relevant languages, but it could be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer. Make sure advertisements are in the local lingo, and have online and in-store experiences accessible across the linguistic barriers.
- Schools: It’s obvious that students need to learn in a language they understand, but don’t forget that parents are another story altogether. Children are faster to adapt to learning the local dialect, but it’s not uncommon for parents to struggle in this area. Make sure phone systems and websites are available in the common languages of your region, and identify staff members (or others) who can act as interpreters when communicating with parents.
Steps to Follow When Making a Plan
- Identify your languages: Whether you’re a governmental agency serving a community or a company with a certain customer base, the first step is to identify what languages you need to be prepared for. The most straightforward way to do this is by taking a survey.
- Create your team: You’ll need an internal task force to take charge of this whole process. If you involve members from different areas, they’re far more likely to create the best program for the organization as a whole.
- Identify available resources: You may have to pay for translators, but you could have employees or other current resources who are already knowledgeable in your relevant languages.
- Prioritize for your situation: Identify the ways in which people will be interacting with your organization (such as phone messages or posted signs), and make sure that these are in the relevant languages.
Risks of Failing with a Language Access Program
There are plenty of positive reasons for creating a Language Access Program, but there are two major negatives if you don’t have one (or do it incorrectly).
- Losing customers: Whether you’re a business or government organization, you’re always serving a “customer” of some sort. If they can’t communicate or find what they need, you’re failing them. That’s the fastest and easiest way to lose them.
- Legal requirements: Aside from just making people happy, you may have a legal obligation to accommodate speakers of various languages. California recently passed a major law related to this, and it’s not the only state to do so.
A Free eBook to Help You Learn More
Hopefully this brief introduction has helped you understand how to start a Language Access Program, as well as explain why you need one.
If you’d like to read about the process in more detail, take a look at our free eBook. It will serve as the next step in your journey!