Bilingual Court Professionals’ Perceptions of Their Language Skills
Asset or Liability?
Keywords:Bilingual Professionals, Court system, Social Work, Language, Discrimination
Bilingual professionals are considered an asset in the workplace. However, bilingual professionals at times perceive their language skills as a liability. This paper examined bilingual professionals’ perceptions of their language skills and the factors that influence their views. Focus groups were used to capture the perspectives of 15 bilingual professionals who speak English and Spanish and work in a court system in the eastern region of the United States. Findings reveal challenges rooted in discrimination that convert bilingual professionals’ perceptions of their language skills from an asset to a liability. Participants highlight unfair practices affecting Limited English Proficiency (LEP) clients. These practices force bilingual professionals to become protectors and gatekeepers to prevent adverse outcomes and provide access to services in the court and across social service systems. Ultimately, bilingual professionals’ perceptions of their language skills depended on how others used their language skills in the workplace. To support bilingual professionals and provide quality services to LEP clients, social work administrators must evaluate structural supports and provide training specific to the cultural aspect of language for all employees.
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