Communicating effectively with clients is a central pillar of good legal practice. Not only do you need to understand your client’s legal issues fully, but you must also make them feel confident that you can help them with their legal problems. Communicating effectively with clients can also make the relationship more productive and help you deal with challenges efficiently.
However, several prominent immigrant languages are widely spoken in the UK, and solicitors cannot be expected to understand and communicate with clients in all of these languages and may encounter clients who do not have a sufficient understanding of English to navigate the legal process. In this article, we look at the most commonly spoken immigrant languages in the UK and why understanding how to communicate with clients who speak another language is so important.
What are the most commonly spoken immigrant languages in the UK?
The United Kingdom has always been a hub of immigration for people across the globe. However, there are several communities with a substantial population in the UK. The biggest immigrant language spoken in the UK is Polish, with around 546,000 speakers.
The next four biggest immigrant languages come from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Punjabi is the second biggest language, with around 273,000 speakers. Then Urdu with around 268,600 speakers, Bengali with around 221,400 speakers, followed closely by Gujarati with 213,000 speakers. The high numbers of immigrants from these areas can largely be attributed to the colonial history of the UK.
Following on from these languages is Arabic with around 159,000 speakers, French with 147,000 speakers, Portuguese with 133,400 speakers, and Spanish with 120,200 speakers. As you can see, there are a substantial number of immigrant language speakers in the UK, most of whom will require legal advice and assistance if they choose to spend their lives in the UK.
Implications for immigration legal practice
It is important for solicitors to understand that a client’s language skills are not always predictable, and even where a client can speak English to some extent, you cannot make assumptions about their ability to understand complex legal topics.
It is essential to get to know the client and develop a good lawyer client-relationship. Making an effort to engage them in discussion about their language and their linguistic ability can help you to establish both a good relationship and an understanding of the additional support you may need to assist your client.
Working with complex legal documents
Many people who speak an immigrant language may also speak English, but this does not mean that they will be able to comprehend written English to the same extent, particularly legal documents. You will need to discuss with your client how you can support them when working with them using legal documents or even any other written communications. You may need to:
- Read documents aloud to them
- Explain any unclear concepts in a more simple way
- Obtain a written translation for your client
You may find that utilising all three of these strategies can help you to work most effectively with your client.
Time pressure and deadlines can mean that it is not always easy to manage cases when clients do not speak English to a highly fluent degree However, it is both essential and your professional responsibility as a solicitor to ensure that your client fully understands the legal advice you have provided them, as well as any action you plan to take on their behalf. By understanding your clients and the importance of language in ensuring understanding you can ensure that you offer your client the level of service they expect.
At IMD Legal Translation, we help law firms and legal practitioners to deliver excellent service to their clients. We provide the highest quality legal translation and legal interpreting services. We have a specialist understanding of a wide variety of languages, including the most common immigrant languages in the UK.
Contact IMD Legal Translation
We specialise in legal translation, interpreting and transcription services, focusing solely on the legal sector. We have built an excellent reputation by delivering a fast, accurate, confidential service tailored to our clients’ needs. We provide excellent customer service with a personal touch and always go the extra mile to exceed our client’s expectations. Contact us today.