What is Linguistic Competency?

The capacity of an organization and its personnel to communicate effectively, and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences including persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills or are not literate, individuals with disabilities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Linguistic competency requires organizational and provider capacity to respond effectively to the health and mental health literacy needs of populations served. The organization must have policy, structures, practices, procedures, and dedicated resources to support this capacity. This may include, but is not limited to, the use of:

  • bilingual/bicultural or multilingual/multicultural staff;
  • cross-cultural communication approaches;
  • cultural brokers;
  • foreign language interpretation services including distance technologies;
  • sign language interpretation services;
  • multilingual telecommunication systems;
  • videoconferencing and telehealth technologies;
  • TTY and other assistive technology devices;
  • computer assisted real time translation (CART) or viable real time transcriptions (VRT);
  • print materials in easy to read, low literacy, picture and symbol formats;
  • materials in alternative formats (e.g., audiotape, Braille, enlarged print );
  • varied approaches to share information with individuals who experience cognitive disabilities;
  • materials developed and tested for specific cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups;
  • translation services including those of:
    • legally binding documents (e.g., consent forms, confidentiality and patient rights statements, release of information, applications)
    • signage
    • health education materials
    • public awareness materials and campaigns; and
    • ethnic media in languages other than English (e.g., television, radio, Internet, newspapers, periodicals).

credit:National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University