We now know that bilingual supervisors have an enormous impact on benefits understanding and utilization.  However, they are not prepared to give advice on this topic, and often wind up providing misleading, incomplete, or outright incorrect information.  However, they feel an obligation either to their teams or to their employers (or to both), so they try.  What can we do about this?

Well, the pressure on them to be experts is compounded tremendously when they are asked to present benefits information in Spanish.  Even if they are just interpreting for an English-speaking presenter, they are still standing up in front of a group of people providing information on a topic they know very little about.  If a word or term comes up that they don’t fully understand, they may be very reluctant to ask for clarification, especially there in front of everyone.  They are perceived as an authority who speaks English, and pausing the PowerPoint to ask what “out-of-pocket maximum” really means may well cause them to lose face.

In addition, this supervisor might not be comfortable with public speaking and might simply want this torturous experience to be over as soon as possible (many of us would rather get root canal than speak in front of an audience).  So rather than asking for clarification, she will just say repeat the English word, roll her r’s, put the accent in a different place, and plough ahead.

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