If you can communicate in more than one language and navigate more than one culture, your multilingual skills can be leveraged to serve our increasingly diverse society. When you think of all the various aspects of life—work, school, home, socializing, volunteering—there are many contextual opportunities to leverage your language abilities and your cross-cultural competencies to make an impact. This becomes even more meaningful when you work in an industry like healthcare, where the language you speak, the culturally diverse individuals you interact with, and cultural nuances may challenge access to services or the ability to receive quality care. Having the language and cultural proficiency to effectively manage health-specific situations can be instrumental in ensuring long term positive outcomes.
A 2019 study by BMC Health Services explored the views of healthcare providers regarding cross-cultural competence in the workplace. It was found that “language barriers, low client health literacy and bureaucratic constraints are regularly offered as barriers to effective cross-cultural service delivery.” A good example of that was during the aftermath of the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and more than 50 people wounded—most of whom were primarily Hispanics from the LGBTQ+ community. How well emergency services, the police, news outlets, and other first responders were able to address and effectively communicate the circumstances was critical. In responding and during the aftermath, the importance of being able to speak in the language of preference of the victim’s families, and with the cultural understanding of the population under stress became blatantly evident. From informing families about their loved ones in a language and cultural context that they could understand to delivering devastating details about the tragedy, linguistic proficiency and cultural competency were evidently needed. Therefore, public, private, and nonprofit organizations increased their focus on identifying the right individuals with the skillsets to provide primary, acute, and other healthcare services that were culturally competent, linguistically appropriate, and with an understanding of the unique needs of the Hispanic LGBTQ+ population.
In a recent LANGUAGE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER podcast episode about the impact of language proficiency in healthcare, the conversation highlighted the importance of leveraging one’s linguistic and cultural competency to best serve the community. “Most of our demographic—approximately 50% of our clients—are Spanish speaking, and that part of the community, for many years, were [sic] not targeted,” stated Celia Patitucci, a bilingual HIV educator and tester. “Now that a lot of agencies are being more conscientious about having not only Spanish speaking employees, but also cultural [sic] competent [employees]…it’s not just knowing the language, but knowing the culture is important.”
As a person that commands more than one language, you can leverage this as your superpower. Whether you are in the healthcare field or not, the ability to speak, write, read, and effectively communicate in more than one language increases your access to cross-cultural job opportunities and gives you the chance to be a champion for diverse communities. With an ACTFL language proficiency certification through Language Testing International (LTI), you will gain an official badge to demonstrate your ability to use your superpowers to make a meaningful difference—at work, school, home, socially, or when you are out in the community.
Learn more about how to get certified at www.languagetesting.com.