Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Bilingualism-Psychological aspects, Social work with Hispanic Americans, Cultural competence, Culture, Bilingual, Social worker, Spanish, Latino


Cultural experiences and conceptualizations of native English bilingual social workers have not been dominant in the ongoing discussion of bilingualism and cultural competence in social work practice, education, and literature. This exploratory study examined practice based cultural experiences of bilingual Spanish-English social workers native to English who work with Spanish speaking clients. Specifically, the focus of the study was centered on how these social workers conceptualize their experiences through a cultural lens in their Spanish language work. Through eleven qualitative interviews with Master's level social workers who use their non-native Spanish in social work practice, this study looked at how conceptualizations of culture relate to social work practice, how linguistic competence and the role of cultural competence are made meaning of in practicing social work in Spanish when it is not the social worker's first language, the ways in which "cultural competence" is an ongoing process for trained social workers, and how bilingual Spanish-English social workers who are native to English can be utilized best with Spanish speaking clients in the field of social work. The presentation of this study aims to guide the social work field, both in educational and practice settings, to support and practically train bilingual social workers who are native to English in their work with Spanish speaking clients. The findings of this study showed that culture is conceptualized on a wide spectrum based on the personal and practice-based experiences of bilingual Spanish-English social workers who speak English as a first language; the findings show that self-reflection and bias checking are important factors in understanding culture, both one's own culture and that of a client. The results of this study have various implications for social work practice with Spanish speaking clients and for social work education as it relates to bilingual social workers and culturally adept services and care. Areas for future research are presented in the final chapter.




ii, 118 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 90-99)