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Multiculturalism and Your Community Association

Multiculturalism and Your Community Association

Many communities around the country have foreign members who are not proficient English speakers. Others have members who are fluent in English but would prefer to converse in their native tongue. I have attended Board and Membership meetings in Florida where residents (and some directors) spoke Spanish, French, Creole, Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, Italian and Russian.

Some association directors feel strongly that only English should be spoken at board and membership meetings and only English should be used for an association’s written communications.

However, if your board’s goal is to communicate effectively with your members and you do have members who would benefit from translating that message into their native tongue, aren’t you thwarting your own goals by not doing so?

Communities in certain areas like South Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, New York and other areas with high concentrations of foreign residents, may want to give some thought to how multiculturalism can benefit and strengthen their neighborhoods.

When was the last time you reviewed your applications for purchase and rentals with an eye towards foreign purchasers and renters? Do you request background information from their countries and do you have any of your information published in other languages? What does your association website look like and is there a translation button on there for residents who wish to view the information in a different language?

Does your community have social events which expose foreign members to traditional American holidays while also hosting events which expose your American members to foreign holiday celebrations or customs?

As our world continues to shrink, private residential communities need to think about how multiculturalism can and should play a role in their policies and protocols. What are you willing to do to create a feeling of inclusion and what do you consider unnecessary and/or inadvisable?


  • Eugene Daniel

    Reply March 5, 2018 5:12 pm

    Some Boards do not allow other languages at meetings, and will refuse requests for non English speakers to bring a translator (no cost to association). Is there any jurisprudence that can be used to challenge this?

    • Donna DiMaggio Berger

      Reply March 5, 2018 5:12 pm

      English is the official language in Florida so community association boards are not required to conduct meetings in other languages. That being said, some boards do allow translators to attend to facilitate the greatest participation amongst a diverse resident population. Some communities provide an individual to provide sign language when the need arises. If an individual wishes to have a translator and pays for same, it would be reasonable for the board to permit same. In the alternative the owner could provide a translator with a Power of Attorney to attend the meeting in his or her stead and provide a transcript of what transpired.

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