Fact Sheet - Cross Cultural Communication
Refers to best practices or strategies that proffessionals(and people in general)need to adopt when communicating with people of different cultural, class, or educational backgrounds.

The following pages summarize information documented by the ?Action for Access: Opening the Doors to Diverse Seniors Communities??Manual, a project of In the Picture, Seniors Initiative, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, 1997. Please see the end of this document for full reference.



Important factors to consider when working to bridge communication between groups with diverse literacy levels, and language abilities, and between cultural groups:

?????????Learn about the target audience

o?????? Including increasing your awareness and understanding of ethnicity, race, class, gender and age

o?????? Use past and present experiences; ideas that may have worked or not worked so well, to develop your communication strategy

o?????? Use information from individuals from within the organization which serves the particular community or communities, you will be working with. It should not, however, be the only source used in determining what information one wants to convey and to whom. This information is subjective, and may be influenced by one's own ideas, values and attitudes as they relate to the issue. Also, the information is often based only on the clients the organization serves, thereby excluding input from the larger community.

o?????? Individuals or groups within the community

o?????? Statistical data, which may come from a variety of sources, including needs assessments, census information, and so on.?

???????? Culturally appropriate communication

o?????? Communication is a two-way process involving culture, values and assumptions

o?????? Effective communication requires both an acknowledgment and understanding of culture and values.

o?????? There are both acceptable and unacceptable issues that may be discussed and acceptable and unacceptable ways to discuss a particular subject.

o?????? The acceptability of these issues may depend on a lot of factors, including such things as gender, class, ethnicity and age.

o?????? Words and phrases may take on very different meanings in different cultures.


Refers to verbal translation of ideas or information from one language to another.

Types of interpretation:?

???????? Simultaneous interpretation- Simultaneous interpretation occurs when someone translates what the speaker is saying at the same time as the person is speaking.

o?????? To facilitate this process, one can use a system of transmitters and receivers. The transmitters and receivers are each small, portable, radio-like devices. The interpreter is able to translate quietly into the microphone on the transmitter, while the participants requiring interpretation receive the transmission from the interpreter through headphones connected to the receiver.

???????? Consecutive interpretation- someone speaks briefly, expressing one idea or point, and then stops. When the speaker stops, the interpreter translates what has just been said. The process is then repeated over and over again.

Information about preparing for interpretation, including determining the number of language groups and participants, advertising the events, physical set-up, can be found in the Action for Access: Opening the Doors to Diverse Seniors Communities document.


Three factors to consider:

1.??? Evidence of need for the information

Consider whether your target audience wants or needs the information you are planning to translate, and whether it already exists and in this case whether you can get it from another community or organizations, etc.

2.??? Cost

Having materials translated can be costly. Another alternative could be to enlist a volunteer. In either case, those involved should be aware of the translator?s work beforehand.

3.??? Literacy levels of target groups

Guidelines for Written Translation:

???????? Write the original copy in easy to read, clear language

???????? Discuss translation style and content with translator before beginning

???????? Review the translated documents


The use of clear and simple language increases the understanding and possibly the acceptability of materials for a large number of people. The use of clear, simple language may even eliminate the need for translation or interpretation, but even if it does not completely eliminate the need for translation or interpretation, it will greatly simplify the processes.

Guidelines for Developing and Evaluating Materials:

  • Remember the?importance?of involving the target audience in the selection, development and evaluation of?written materials.??

  • Make Sure The Information Is Understandable

    • Make sure that all materials are written in clear, easy to understand language and that the information provided does not lend itself to different interpretations or misinterpretations.

    • The information provided should be focused on a few simple and related ideas or messages?

  • Make Sure The Information Presented Is Culturally Acceptable

    • Culturally appropriate, means that the information or language used to convey the information should not go against cultural norms and traditions??

  • Help The Target Group(s) To Own The Information

    • Make sure that the information is important or relevant to the main interests and priorities of the target group(s).

    • The language used should reflect the everyday situation of the target audience(s).


Action for Access: Opening the Doors to Diverse Seniors Communities,??

In the Picture Seniors Initiative, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, 1997.

If you would like to order this invaluable resource or would like more information, please contact:

"In the Picture" Seniors Initiative
c/o St. Christopher House
248 Ossington Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M6J 3A2
Phone (416) 532-4828
Fax (416) 532-8739

Or you can dowload a PDF version of the manual:



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