Working with patrons from other cultures
Working with people who do not speak English well
Our mission is getting people the information they need. To do that we have to find out what people want. This can be very difficult when there is a language barrier. Here are some tips to help you overcome the language barrier. Remember, many people who speak English still will have a language barrier. A recent arrival from Kentucky or Georgia to Minnesota may find our accent difficult to understand. You can improve the communication in a reference transaction.
- Know and use the language skills of your colleagues.
- Show concern for the patrons by letting them know you are trying to help.
- Speak clearly and distinctly at a moderate pace.
- Try not to use idiomatic phrases or slang. Keep sentences short.
- If the patron does not understand you, try different words or phrases. The ones you used first may not have been mastered yet.
- Don't be afraid to use a dictionary.
- It may help to have people write down what they want. Sometimes they know the words but have trouble with pronunciation. However, be especially sensitive to patrons who may not be able to write in English yet.
- Identify other resource agencies in your community who may be willing to help translate.
Go to Methods for communicating with patrons from other cultures.
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This page was updated on October 25, 2003.