query: organizing across languages

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Oct 29 15:03:04 CDT 2005

[ed:  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Sarah's 

From: "Sarah Phillips" <phillips at stand.org>

Esteemed colleagues,


I was hoping you could help me out.  I am building a chapter of a grassroots
children's advocacy organization in an extremely diverse city.  We work
primarily with parents, and the vast majority of the parents in this city
speak 1 of 5 different languages-English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and
Khmer.  There's also a smattering of Lao and Vietnamese speakers in the
community.  I speak English and French and am learning Spanish. 


What I'm looking for are some really practical tips from those of you who
are working/have worked in similar situations. Particularly nuts and bolts
stuff, like how your leaders have facilitated meetings when there's more
than two different languages at the table?  (I've used headsets in previous
jobs and had a hard time making it work).  Or, how you help leaders organize
in a language that you can't understand?  (We're really heavy on leadership
development and helping our leaders become effective organizers.  And while
I think most of my leaders will be pretty fluent in one of the languages
that I speak, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of the members they
recruit won't be.)


So, what have you learned from your experience that might help me start off
on the right foot?




Sarah Phillips

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