Language & Cultural Competence

Written to the song: Fever — Dua Lipa

“The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.” — Unknown

“Culture embodies the beliefs, customs, values, forms, arts and ways of life of a particular society, group, place or time. It encompasses elements such as age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital/single status, gender expression, socio-economic, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation” (CASLPO, 2019).

The individuals that we interact with come from various diverse backgrounds. As someone who is a teacher and a future speech-language pathologist, I recognize that I will luckily be working with individuals from various backgrounds. I think that it is the responsibility of teachers and SLPs to be cognizant and work towards being culturally competent practitioners. Speech, body language, and expectations within a conversation are all influenced by an individual’s culture. “Cultural dimensions” refers to the differences among people that may shape their identities and diversity as a whole. These cultural dimensions are evolving and also may shape our attitudes of the people we work with both implicitly or explicitly.

An individual’s cultural norms dictate how an individual is expected to act. These norms include turn-taking in conversations, greetings, use of humour, eye contact, questions, interruptions, comfort level in silence, decision-making, gesturing and comfort asking questions. These are all items that influence an individual’s role and comfort in conversation. So how do you get to know how to interact with someone from a background that is different than yours? Get to know them! Allow for individuals to share their perspectives, don’t make assumptions and realize that a person may have various cultural dimensions that shape them. Asking open-ended questions allows us to learn more about people rather than making assumptions. Also as a teacher of speech-language pathologists, it’s important to ensure that your assessments and intervention tools are culturally relevant — does every child celebrate Christmas, seen snow or know what Barney is? Additionally, it is important to be mindful of scheduling (ex: not during someone's holidays or prayer times) and consider how your goals may be cultural (ex: eye contact).

It is essential for teachers and SLPs to practice socio-cultural consciousness, to actively integrate culturally responsive teaching practices and strive to have high expectations for all of their clients no matter what their backgrounds are. When we are constantly developing ourselves, we make our teaching and therapy more impactful and meaningful to our students.

Author of “Q & A a Day for Travelers”. https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-frenkel/

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