What is Language Access & Why Does Your Organization Need It?
Language access is the availability of information in a language of and that is understandable to the intended audience. From significantly improving customer experience and communication to increased market share, implementing language access in your organization can provide a number of benefits. Before we get into why language access is important and which industries will most benefit from it, let’s first paint a clearer picture of what language access is.
What is Language Access?
Language access refers to the ability of individuals to access and understand information in their native language. It is particularly important for individuals who do not speak the dominant language of a community, as they may face barriers to understanding conversations and participating in society to their utmost potential. Language access is essential for people with limited English proficiency and different linguistic backgrounds.
Language access is important in both written and spoken communication and encompasses different forms of media from text to video and audio. Some examples of providing language access are: providing multilingual content on websites, including subtitles and closed captions in videos, offering interpretation services for meetings and conferences, or providing translated educational resources in a student’s native language.
Why Does Your Organization Need Language Access?
If you are considering expanding your business to different markets, trying to reach a significantly larger audience, or striving to find your organization’s competitive advantage that will set it apart from the rest, then you should not underestimate the importance of including language access as an integral part of planning and implementation strategies.
Equality, Diversity, & Inclusivity
A primary reason to implement language access in your organization is to offer employees and consumers equal access to products, services, and information. Providing them with meaningful access to what you offer will not only make them feel welcome, but also build loyalty and long-term relationships.
Reaching a Wider Audience
Organizations that provide products or services to a diverse population will benefit from implementing language access measures. It will help them reach a wider audience and provide better service to individuals who speak a different language.
Advocates for language access will agree that it is crucial for social inclusion, as it ensures everyone will have equal access to information, regardless of their primary spoken language or linguistic ability. Likewise, it is essential for people with limited English proficiency.
Increased Market Share
Providing language access can attract and retain customers and employees from diverse linguistic backgrounds, giving your organization a competitive advantage. This is especially true if your competitors are only tackling the market’s dominant language with staff that aren’t multilingual. Since customer experience trumps many other factors in a business, if you and your competitors offer similar products, services, and opportunities, the market share will be yours for the taking.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
By providing language access in your organization, you can ensure that customers from diverse backgrounds will receive impeccable customer service and can fully comprehend information related to your product and services, resulting in increased customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty.
Improved Employee Collaboration
Language access can improve communication and collaboration within an organization. If employees come from diverse linguistic backgrounds, by providing language access within the organization, you can ensure they not only comply with the company policy, but can more effectively collaborate with their colleagues.
Which Industries Need Language Access?
The short answer is every industry does. In the longer answer we can focus on several industries that benefit from it. It is important to note that government, education, healthcare, and organizations that fall under Title VI and other applicable federal laws – such as the Affordable Care Act that require Limited English Proficient (LEP) people be given “meaningful access” to federally subsidized programs by providing compliant and appropriate language services – are required by law to provide language access.
Language access is important for a wide range of industries, as it ensures that all individuals have equal access to information and resources regardless of their native language. While any industry that offers products and services to consumers should implement language access measures in their business, here are some industries that may particularly benefit from doing so:
Retail and Customer Service
From customer satisfaction to clear and accurate product descriptions, language access in retail and customer service can ensure that everyone has access to the same information and experience in a way that best resonates with them.
Media and Entertainment
Providing language access in media can help entertain a wider audience. This includes adding subtitles and closed captions on videos. It may also require making changes to video titles, movie posters, and other marketing material to be clearly understood by viewers.
Given the diversity of its staff and vendors, manufacturing depends on language access to promote collaboration and safety on the job. Employees in manufacturing often work with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and operate heavy machinery. So, if their native language isn’t English, their productivity, job satisfaction, safety compliance – and in some cases their lives – depends on understanding translated manuals and safety precautions.
How to Provide Language Access in Organizations
From assessing the need for language access in your organization, to developing a thorough plan and successfully implementing it, here are some steps to take when incorporating language access in an organization:
- Start by assessing the need for language access in your industry and organization. Identify the areas of your organization where it is needed the most.
- Learn your demographics. Conduct research to determine the languages spoken by your current customers and employees, as well as the potential ones you are trying to target and recruit.
- Develop a language access plan that outlines your goals and the steps your organization will take to start providing language access services, including the budget, resources, and a timeline.
- Provide language access consulting and training to employees who interact with customers that speak a different language.
- Identify bilingual staff that are currently part of your organization and test their proficiencies. Here are some advantages of taking a language proficiency test. Additionally, provide them with language trainings to help them provide accurate language access and cater to the growing need for bilingual and multilingual employees.
- Consider how you reach out to your internal and external audiences and ensure language access at every touchpoint
- Provide translated materials, such as brochures, policies, handbooks, and websites in the languages spoken by your current and potential customers.
- Provide subtitles and closed captions on videos.
- Provide interpretation services for events, conferences, and meetings, and other situations in which customers and employees interact.
- Provide multilingual support on websites and applications, or via chatbots.
- Retain a language access expert to assess your language access capabilities.
- Ensure compliance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations related to language access.
It is worth noting that language access is an ongoing process and must be included in organizational planning from the start. Organizations should continuously assess the shifts in language needs, evaluate effectiveness of the services they offer to their clients, consumers, patients and students, and adapt as needed. At Bromberg & Associates, our qualified team of language access consultants and experts are always available to support you in implementing language access in your business. Get in touch today!