12:35 PM

How to communicate when language is a barrier

By Matt Lurie, Ruby 

¿Hablas Español? You might not, but your clients and prospects do. 

With over 41 million native speakers and 12 million bilingual speakers, the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world — and we’re on track to become número uno by 2050.  

This poses both opportunities and challenges for growing legal practices. On one hand, multilingualism is undeniably good for us as individuals and as a society. Compared to monolinguals, people who can speak more than one language are smarter, according to recent studies. Those who speak multiple languages learn better, solve problems easier, understand the world more deeply, and exhibit more cognitive resilience.  

Organizations with multilingual workforces can tap into their collective brainpower to stand out and become industry leaders. As Microsoft points out, language diversity leads to innovation, ultimately fueling business growth. 

On the other hand, language barriers could be an issue. If you are not already multilingual, learning a new language can be — how should we put this? — hard. Really hard. Children seem to be natural linguistic sponges, absorbing new words with little effort. Adults, not so much. If you’re over 18 years old, it can take months or years to become fluent in a different language. 

Do you really need to learn a new language to run a successful legal business? 

Let’s face it: most lawyers are simply too busy as is. When you are spending 40-100 hours a week working, plus making connections, managing employees, wrangling technology, and navigating the big and small disruptions of modern life, the last thing you need is that Duolingo owl shaming you for not learning Spanish faster.  

Consider the fact the average lawyer spends only 29% of each workday on billable time, using the rest of his or her hours to manage administrative tasks and business development essential to the practice’s survival.  

Good luck fitting vocabulary lessons into all that. 

The struggle is real. 

So, what’s a time-strapped monolingual to do in an increasingly bilingual world? How can you ensure you’re not leaving any clients or prospects out — that you are delivering the same quality of service to everyone you serve, regardless of which language they speak? How do you communicate respectfully, professionally, and authentically across the language barrier? 

We’re glad you asked! You don’t need to hire new employees, try to translate conversations on the fly, or listen to language tapes while you sleep in hopes you will learn subliminally. A bilingual answering service can delight your callers in English and Spanish. 

How do bilingual answering services work? 

With a bilingual answering service, you can ensure Spanish and English-speaking callers are receiving the same continuity of care since a team of virtual receptionists handles client inquiries and communicates about your practice on your behalf. 

Your incoming calls go straight to the answering service, and professionals greet your customers in English, Spanish, or both. The best bilingual answering services employ trained receptionists who ensure your clients feel comfortable, understood, and taken care of.  

It adds up to better, more inclusive service, along with more time in your day to focus on your practice — or those language courses you’ve been putting off. 

Ready to get started? 

Check out answering services on The Missouri Bar’s website. Missouri Bar members even receive discounts from top answering services

Reprinted with permission from Ruby