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An introduction to social work in Wales
An introduction to social work in Wales

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5.2 Language sensitivity

Davies (2012) highlights three core issues for consideration in carrying out language-sensitive practice in Wales: the personal (including values and attitudes to the language); the social (including an understanding of the complexities of language use and language choice); and issues of power, empowerment and disempowerment. Empowering, anti-discriminatory practice requires that social workers reflect not only on their practice, but on their own values – personal and professional. They must question whether these impact on their practice, and if so, whether the outcome is in the interests of the service user, or on the other hand, whether it discriminates against thus disempowers them.

Language sensitivity is, therefore, more than simply asking whether an individual speaks Welsh or would like a service in Welsh. It is about working to empower service users to communicate with the service in whichever language they feel most comfortable. This approach provides choice of language to the individual citizen, without making an assumption about which language they should use in a particular set of circumstances. It recognises the complex social/historical reasons behind such a choice. The history of the language, which saw the Welsh Language excluded from public administration, resulted in its use being restricted to family and private life.