Language Matters – The Power of Labels

I’ve been loving the insights shared on Mireya Pérez’s Brand the Interpreter podcasts, especially one episode that really got me thinking: “A Shift in Terminology with Dr. Casey Lion, Dr. Corrie McDaniel, and Dr. Desiree Yeboah”.

This podcast dives into their thought-provoking article, “Language Matters: Why We Should Reconsider the Term ‘Limited English Proficiency’,” written by three passionate doctors from Seattle Children’s Hospital: Dr. Desiree Yeboah, Dr. Corrie McDaniel, and Dr. Casey Lion.

The commentary spoke of the importance of labels and the potential power they can have in marginalizing people, specifically the widely used LEP acronym, Limited English Proficiency.   The podcast unpacks the commentary with the authors who discuss the origin of the acronym and its unintended negative stigmatism that can result in its use.

Mireya introduced the podcast by asking the audience to think of the word limited and what comes to mind.  I thought we could consult the Oxford English Dictionary:

“Limited – Circumscribed within definite limits, bounded, restricted.  Of circumstances: narrow.  Also in a weakened sense: small, slight, low (in number or extent).”

As humans I believe we categorize to identify, many years ago I was a technical trainer for IT Departments within large corporations who often showed disdain for “end users”.  If anyone is familiar with the British TV show, IT Crowd famous for the saying, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”.  I would be frustrated with the generalization, pointing out to my students that the person may not have great computer skills but their MBA or their degree in Nuclear Medicine gave them credibility in my eyes.  I have noticed a shift over the years where IT Departments are now referring to “end users” as “customers”.  To bring change we need to bring a new identity. 

Talking of passionate people, please join me this week as we have our webinar with Mireya Pérez and Despina Amanatidou, titled “Bridging the Gap: Interpreter Strategies for Effective Communication with Children in Health and Education.” Two great speakers with lots of experience to share.

After the webinar, I’ll be taking on the task of changing our terminology used within our business to move away from LEP and move to LOTE which is widely used within Australia.   Our part in bringing change to our industry.

Share this story
IMS Interpreter scheduling software smile

Join the conversation.

Enter your email below to stay informed.