Language Differences & Limited English Proficiency in West Virginia


  •  According to 2011 Census data, 2.3% of West Virginians over the age of 5 (slightly over 40,000 individuals) speak a language other than English inside the home, compared to 20.3% nationally.
  • In the 2011-12 school year, West Virginia had 1,953 K-12 students identified with Limited English Proficiency.  The four counties with student LEP enrollment in the “triple digits” were Berkeley, Jefferson, Kanawha and Cabell; 39 counties identified 10 or fewer students with LEP.
  • The top five languages or language groups spoken by English Language Learners in West Virginia are Spanish, Vietnamese, French, German, and Persian (EPE, 2009).


  •  The lack of representation of service providers in mental health from the Latino, African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native American communities has resulted in serious disparities of quality care for all communities of color.—  These disparities are particularly critical for those with limited English proficiency who remain isolated not only by cultural barriers but also language barriers that prevent them from receiving proper care
  • With no “threshold populations,” in West Virginia communities or programs, data collection translation and interpretation resources are very scarce in the state.



 Limited English Proficiency-


  • Interpretation: The conversion of a message (usually oral) from one language (the source language) into oral form in another language (the target language).
  • Linguistic Competency: The capacity of individuals or institutions to communicate effectively at every point of contact. Effective communication includes the ability to convey information — both written and oral — in a manner that is easily understood by diverse groups, including persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills or who are not literate, those having low health literacy, those with disabilities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Language Assistance Services (LAS): Mechanisms used to facilitate communication with individuals who do not speak English, those who have limited English proficiency, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. These services can include in-person interpreters, bilingual staff, or remote interpreting systems such as telephone or video interpreting. Language services also refer to processes in place to provide translation of written materials or signage, sign language, or braille materials.
  • Limited English Proficiency (LEP): A concept referring to a level of English proficiency that is insufficient to ensure equal access to public services without language assistance with respect to a particular type of service, benefit, or encounter.
  • Meaningful Access: Recipients of federal financial assistance are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by limited English proficient (LEP) persons.
  • Threshold Population: A threshold population is a linguistic group that makes up 15% or more of a program’s clients and who share a common language other than English as a primary language. For example, if program XYZ serves 200 clients, and at least 30 of them speak Haitian-Creole as a primary language, that group would be considered a threshold population for that program, and Haitian-Creole would be considered a threshold language. Some programs may target multiple groups and, therefore, may have multiple threshold populations and threshold languages; some programs may have no threshold populations.
  • Translation: the conversion of a message from the source language into written form in the target language.