by Jessica Xiomara García and Sarah Illing   |  October 18, 2017

(Photo Credit: Brittney Baird Sowell)

As we know, working towards justice and equity can happen through various forms. Now more than ever we are thinking about how the work we do ensures that multiple voices are included. Colorlines, a daily news site published by Race Forward, offers a helpful resource on language access with considerations for gathering community input in multiple languages, addressing power dynamics, and decentering English:

  1. Make sure that people speak directly to one another instead of to the interpreter

  2. Make sure all signage and materials are translated

  3. Encourage presenters and facilitators to use non-dominant languages in their presentations

  4. Refrain from placing non-English speakers in a separate section of the room

  5. During simultaneous translation, provide equipment such as radio headsets to all of the participants rather than limiting them to those who do not speak English

We offer some additional considerations from our experience facilitating conversations that are inclusive of multiple voices:

  • In framing your event, be sure to underscore that the presence of multiple languages in your event is a benefit and an asset to your work (not a challenge or barrier to overcome).

  • In planning your agenda, resist the urge to do too much. Leave enough time for authentic connection, collaboration, and storytelling.

  • Encourage one person to speak at a time so that interpreters are able to capture the content that is being shared. Aim to ask one question at a time (instead of a string of questions) so that the questions can be fully heard and answered.

  • Avoid making any assumptions or statements suggesting that people who speak the same language have similar lived experiences - recognize the plurality of nationalities, dialects, backgrounds, talents, and perspectives that exist within every language group.

  • If jokes or cultural references come up during the meeting, allow time for interpreters to explain the meaning behind the reference. Aim to prevent situations in which participants feel excluded or left out due to a reference they are unfamiliar with. Take advantage of opportunities for community members to teach each other about their lived cultural experiences.

  • In cases where there are language-specific breakout groups (e.g., if it is a large group and there are not enough interpreters for smaller groups), invite people to self-select into groups and make sure the language options are presented clearly to everyone (without profiling, e.g., do not ask “Do you speak Spanish?”).  Communicate along the lines of “this is the group that will be speaking in Spanish,” rather than “this is the group for Spanish speakers” to acknowledge that Spanish speakers may also speak other languages.

What additional practices are you mindful of?

Want to learn more about designing and implementing culturally responsive and inclusive evaluations?
Check out our recent
blog post