Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Our Multicultural Country

Guest Blogger: Kiran Bammarito

On Tuesday, I attended an election briefing hosted by a national Latino-focused group. The panelists spoke in Spanish and English, but they didn’t always offer questions or responses in both languages. Being bilingual, it wasn’t a problem for me; however, the panelists made some excellent commentary in Spanish only, leaving English-only speakers at a deficit.

As we move toward a majority-minority country by 2050, communicators targeting audiences in our country increasingly need to factor cultural and linguistic needs into their communication strategy. If communicators remember that the U.S. non-Hispanic White population will soon be below 50 percent, they’ll know that communicating for diverse, bi- or even multilingual audiences is critical to social change efforts. Your job is to make sure that not only your ideas, but also the way they are presented, consider how a given audience perceives and relates to the world. These groups will trust you and engage more when it’s clear that you’ve designed your messages, materials and more in a way that is culturally appropriate for them. Make sure your programs and projects have “cultural depth” by considering questions like:

  • What are the demographics of my audience?
  • What is the preferred language of my audience? Does this change in different spaces (e.g., home vs. school vs. work)?
  • What is the age of my audience?
  • Are any of my audience members native- or foreign-born?
  • Of the foreign-born, are most of them American citizens or do they consider themselves American?
  • What is the education level of my audience?
  • What is the socio-economic status of my audience?
  • What insight do I have about my audience? (e.g., What are some stereotypes and misconceptions about this audience? How might the history and culture of this audience affect my ability to reach my goal?)
  • What macro-level constraints or considerations does my audience face (e.g., challenging political climate, environmental racism)?
  • What micro-level constraints or considerations do they face (e.g., lack of Internet access or bilingual services)?
  • How do these constraints or considerations affect my goal?
  • Do I have a culturally competent translator and proofreader for my linguistic needs, and does at least one person on my team speak the necessary language and have the appropriate cultural knowledge?

Culture and diversity are broad terms that have different meanings for different people. As such, how communicators incorporate each of them into their outreach strategies will differ as well. Effective cultural competence in communications is not a new topic, but there is so much more to explore.

Have your projects successfully addressed cultural and linguistic differences among your target audiences? Tell us how in the comment section of this post.

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Categories: Diversity-Inclusion