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Limited English Proficiency - Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons?
A: Individuals who do not speak English as his or her primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.


Q: What are examples of language assistance?
A: Language assistance that a recipient might provide to LEP persons includes, but is not limited to: oral interpretation services, bilingual staff, telephone services, written translation services, notices to staff and recipients of the availability of LEP services; or referrals to community liaisons proficient in the language of LEP persons.


Q: What is the difference between a translation and an interpretation?
A: A translation is the process of transferring ideas expressed in writing from one language to another. An interpretation is the process of listening to communication in one language and orally translating it into another language while retaining the same meaning. Tips for how to hire translators and interpreters can be found on the Limited English Proficiency website and in this LEP file (PDF)


Q: Does the National Resource Conservation Service support family members serving as interpreters to LEP clients?
A: NRCS will not encourage the use of family members or friends as interpreters because this may violate an individual’s privacy and disclose sensitive and confidential information. It is NRCS policy to inform LEP customers of the right to the free language assistance or interpreter services at no cost to the LEP customer.

LEP customers who decline such services and request the use of a family member or friend will be asked to sign a ‘Release’ acknowledging that this practice could result in a breach of confidentiality and he/she will not hold NRCS responsible for any inaccurate translation or miscommunication. NRCS prohibits the use of minor children (16 years of age or younger) as an official interpreter and will not allow minor children to interpret under any circumstances.


Q: What is Title VI and how does it relate to providing meaningful access to LEP persons?
A: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance. In certain situations, failure to ensure that persons who are LEP can effectively participate in, or benefit from, federal assisted programs may violate Title VI’s prohibition against national origin discrimination.


Q: How does USDA address LEP?
A: In 1999, Departmental Regulation (DR) 4330-003,”Nondiscrimination in USDA-Conducted Programs and Activities” provided guidance and direction to USDA agencies and employees in order to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the Department's prohibitions against discrimination in its conducted programs and activities. In June 2013, DR 4300-005, “Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Persons with Limited English Proficiency in Programs and Activities Conducted by USDA” established the policies and procedures for the purpose of ensuring that persons with LEP have meaningful access to programs and activities conducted by USDA pursuant to Executive Order 13166 “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.”


Q: What is the four-factor analysis?
A: It is the review of customer base total circumstances to determine if LEP services are needed. The factors are as follows: (1) the number or proportion of LEP persons served in the eligible service populations; (2) the frequency with which LEP persons come in contact with our services; (3) the nature and importance of the services, programs or activities provided; and (4) the resources or the costs involved.


Q: What are the recipients of federal funds and federal agencies required to do to meet the LEP requirements?
A: Recipients of federal agencies are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons. While designed to be a flexible and fact-dependent standard, the starting point is an individualized assessment that balances the four factors analysis.


Q: Does NRCS provide LEP training?
A: Yes, NRCS provides training via Aglearn. (Under-construction)


Q: Where can I find additional information on LEP?
A: Additional information may also be obtained through the federal-wide LEP website; or the regulatory agency of LEP, the Department of Justice LEP page.