There are over 350 languages people use to communicate with each other within the United States. Though the federal government does not recognize any one as its official language, English is the most commonly spoken and is often expected in professional and legal settings; this can lead to communication barriers, making interactions challenging for those who do not speak English.
About 68 million people in the U.S. speak a second language other than English, and a high number of people, up to 42 million, speak Spanish as their first language. But even being bilingual can be difficult, as English is a tricky language. When working with legal issues, having someone fully understand you can be frustrating at best and deadly at worst.
This is where our attorneys can help. When you’re trying to navigate the legal system, it can be dangerous to not have someone comprehend what you’re saying. Our team at Pastrana & García Injury Law believes that everyone should have a lawyer who speaks their primary language for the safety of the client and the clarity of the claim.
Why Effective Communication is Crucial in Legal Matters
It is everyone’s right to have a competent lawyer in the courtroom. We maintain that you have the right to be understood. As of 2022, Hispanic attorneys comprise less than 6% of lawyers in the United States. This means there are not enough lawyers who speak Spanish to fulfill the demand for bilingual attorneys. Fluent communication is essential in legal discussions because:
- Native languages are part of culture; understanding them is important so meaning isn’t lost.
- Your lawyer should be your best advocate, and the greatest chance you have of that is for them to thoroughly comprehend what you’re saying.
- It’s crucial for people who have been victims to have the ability to speak openly about what they experienced and to communicate their concerns directly to someone who can help.
- Your case can get the attention to detail it deserves when your lawyer gets the facts directly from you.
- While most lawyers negotiate with insurance companies — meaning you don’t have to speak with them. The expectations are clear between the client and the team of attorneys.
Barriers Faced by Non-English Speakers in Legal Settings
There are several legal communication barriers that people who don’t speak English face when trying to receive justice.
Finding a Translator
Translators are essential to bridge the gap of misunderstanding, but there are a lot of moving parts to consider when hiring one. Sometimes, a trusted family member or friend can act as an interpreter in a legal setting. However, there are still words or phrases that get lost. Legal terms are difficult to understand, even without being translated. And there are many factors to consider.
- Cost. Translators are valuable but can also be expensive to hire per hour.
- Exact wording. Languages are not 1:1, and ideas or important information can get lost even with the most trustworthy translator.
- Time. Having a translator means that there are more people’s schedules to take into account, and you must be able to depend on your translator to always show up for meetings.
Communicating Under Pressure
People do not communicate at their best when stressed, scared, or in pain—and often, if someone has received catastrophic injuries, they’ll experience all of those feelings. It can be extremely comforting to have someone who can parse through what you’re saying in an open manner you’re saying it and be able to provide counsel in your primary language.
Even without English being an official language, our country is saturated with many officials who only speak English. This lack of knowledge can lead to miscommunication in the best of cases and fear and distrust in the worst scenarios.
Underrepresented groups who cannot easily advocate for themselves because of a language barrier often have to forgo the justice they deserve because the U.S. legal system has not grown to accommodate them. Our legal team works hard to bridge that gap so everyone in this country can have their voice heard.
Benefits of Having a Lawyer Fluent in Your Language
There are many benefits to choosing a lawyer who speaks your primary language.
- You don’t need a translator; we understand you and can communicate directly with you instead of going through a third party.
- The trust between clients and attorneys is increased because of mutual understanding.
- The response time for communication is often quicker due to not having to schedule with an intermediary.
- As a client, you have more control over your situation—the experiences you share, your needs, and your expectations can be quickly communicated to your legal team.
In her pre-law thesis, Megan Dosouto delves into the history, difficulties, and benefits of bilingual representation in the United States, highlighting the important fact that lack of speaking the same language can lead to unjust legal rulings in the system, thereby creating further barriers for non-English speakers.
Our lawyers often advise clients to choose an attorney they feel connected with, and it’s difficult to do that if your primary languages do not match. Having a lawyer who speaks your first language can be a relief because you know you’re being understood. Our staff is bilingual in Spanish and English, meaning that when you speak to us in your first language, you’ll receive compassionate and understanding answers from the moment you reach out to us.
Contact Pastrana & García Injury Law Today
You deserve to be represented by someone who will understand you and your situation. Our firm in Texas is here to help you raise your voice and be heard. If you’re a native Spanish speaker and you’ve been involved in an accident that has resulted in personal injury, reach out to our legal team for a complimentary consultation.
Meet with our lawyers, and speak your primary language confidently; we’ll understand you. Call us at 512-474-4487, or send us a message online to start your claim.