How to Serve Many Cultures – With One Common Goal.

Whether it’s best practice, common sense, or driven by regulatory compliance, cultural and linguistic competence make you a better practitioner. Your empathy and understanding will go a long way to helping you serve your clients. Here are some ways to keep yourself on track.

  • KNOW YOURSELF FIRST. Even with the best of intentions, your personal biases can come into play. As a professional, you must enter the relationship with awareness, knowledge, and skills about your own culture and cultural biases, strengths, and limitations.
  • CLEAR THE PLATE. It's important to start fresh with each new engagement. Keep in mind the lessons you've learned from your existing clients, but make no assumptions about individuals that could lead to misdiagnosis, improper treatment of the individual, or research bias. Even if clients are from the same part of the world or speak the same language as you, take time to know the INDIVIDUAL client and their overall situation.
  • LANGUAGE MATTERS. In the 1920s, Coca-Cola® entered the market in China, but struggled to succeed there. As it turns out, the product name translated to “bite the wax tadpole” in Chinese, confusing and alienating customers. For you, that means bear in mind that certain “common” materials and activities may be inappropriate and even offensive to some individuals.
  • KNOW YOUR EXPERTISE. Audiologists and speech-language pathologists who present themselves as bilingual for the purposes of providing clinical services must be able to speak or sign the primary language of the client, family, or research subject. Also, during clinical management or conduct of research, they must be able to speak or sign at least one other language with native or near-native proficiency in the following areas:
    • lexicon (vocabulary)
    • semantics (meaning)
    • phonology (pronunciation)
    • morphology/syntax (grammar)
    • pragmatics (uses)
  • DIG DEEP INTO YOUR TOOLBOX – AND OTHERS’. Your goal is to provide the best possible care – even when it’s challenging. Consult with other professionals or mentors, and take advantage of every available resource. A spirit of understanding – combined with ongoing, life-long learning – is a critical step in ensuring high-quality service delivery.

These are just some of the ethical matters you, as a provider, should consider. Learn more about the ASHA Code of Ethics and how the code speaks to cultural and linguistic competence.