Donovan Group Insights

In the Modern Era, Language Shouldn’t be a Communication Barrier

Most districts communicate in a primary language. Stakeholders speak that language to varying degrees, and in some cases, they might not speak that language at all. The 21st century has given school districts all the tools they need to translate a message into any language in the world. Use those tools to connect with the many diverse groups in your community.

Be mindful of multilingual stakeholders

Chances are, your district communicates in one primary language. Interviews, public statements, take-home letters, emails and infographics are usually in the language that’s spoken by the vast majority of your stakeholders. Defaulting to this language is so instinctual, you might forget that it’s far from the only language spoken in your community.

Every time you communicate, take stock of all the diverse groups who are going to see your message. For some, English is their second language. Which languages do they feel most comfortable communicating in? Do you have the support services necessary to communicate in those languages? Think less about how you want to relay a message and more about how stakeholders want to receive that message.

Translating your message multiple different ways will allow you to connect with a broader audience. It’s not just about helping people understand the words you speak. It’s about acknowledging and honoring the diverse cultures that make up your school community. Even if a stakeholder can communicate in English, they might prefer a different language, and this is a courtesy your district should be able to provide.

Take steps toward inclusive communication

Before you speak, you have to know who you’re speaking to. Gather information about the demographics of students, staff, families and community members. Analyze records to see which languages are represented in your school population, as well as how many stakeholders speak each language. District leaders should also have a general understanding of who’s in the community at large.

Once you understand the demographics within your community, assess whether your district has the means to communicate with a multilingual audience. You might have interpreters, family liaisons and paraprofessionals who are proficient in some languages but not others. If that’s the case, your district would highly benefit from professional translation services. Don’t be afraid to look outside your district for support!

Modern technology is bringing people together like never before. Thanks to this technology, districts have the ability to communicate with stakeholders in their preferred languages. Do more than communicate effectively—show each and every person that they matter.



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