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LA RED TIG Week: Valuing Bilingual/Bicultural Evaluators’ Communication Skills to Engage Audiences by Norma Martínez-Rubin

¡Hola!/Hello! My name is Norma Martínez-Rubin and I am a bilingual health educator and program evaluator. I’ve had the privilege of being considered a liaison by program administrators interested in engaging their Latino/a, Spanish-speaking constituencies for program development and/or improvement. By designing linguistically appropriate surveys and focus groups on collaborative projects, my evaluation colleagues and I have come to better understand health related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of monolingual, low-income Spanish speakers. At least one of us has served to narrow the language gap between program designers and their target populations. But it’s been all of us who’ve recognized the value of incorporating once “hard-to-reach” Spanish-speaking communities by intentionally including a bilingual and bicultural evaluator on an evaluation team.

When we learn a professional discipline’s vocabulary we gain entry into it. With conscious effort, years of practice and ongoing skills development enable us to accurately recognize our profession’s lingo, application, and contextual significance. Similarly, to be useful, native and foreign language skills require ongoing exposure and study of the origin of words, shifts in word meaning, and the nuances of regional dialects. An appreciation of diction and speakers’ intonations — the matters of speech and expression that characterize individuals and, by extension, the cultural subgroups with whom they affiliate — broadens our communications.

Evaluators often must negotiate the development of data-collection instruments so they concurrently make sense to the program team and the communities of interest.  In those instances, bilingual/bicultural evaluators aim to accurately identify appropriate and misused wording in evaluation protocols, consequent surveys, and discussion guides. Doing so prevents costly mistakes of data interpretation and misuse.

Lessons Learned:

  • “Como te ven te tratan.” This Spanish expression is about judging someone by their appearance as a clue to their intellectual and socioeconomic status rather than with a true understanding from personally engaging them beyond superficial interaction. Learn it, but act beyond its meaning. Recall, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
  • Latino/a evaluators’ technical and communication skills are built from formal and informal experiences. Evaluation techniques, language skills, and adherence to cultural practices vary. They may not all be equally personally developed, nor might we choose to use them. By respecting each other’s professional contributions, we create opportunities for genuine and fruitful collegial relationships among peers.
  • Bilingual/bicultural skills are means to expand evaluators’ views into the lives of others, served by publicly funded programs for example, which might otherwise be untapped resources for program or service design, development, and improvement. Expand your professional network to include colleagues who are eager to share those skills along with personal and professional insights.
  • Bilingual/bicultural evaluators do more than translate language. They couple their technical and linguistic skills for culturally responsive evaluation that enriches program design and development. We’re keen on acknowledging that culture is composed of more than demographic variables. 

Rad Resources:

  • The American Evaluation Association’s Latino/a Responsive Evaluation Discourse Topical Interest Group is an evaluation resource. ¡Te esperamos!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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