Language Policy

IASSW – Attractive to whom ?

IASSW is a member organisation which is open to all social work educational programmes from all over the world. Therefore its aim is to practise an inclusive language policy, and refrain from becoming an elite organisation dominated by member institutions from the Western world. The language policy and practice is an important factor for deciding whether this is an attractive organisation for a global target group.

Even if the majority of the members of IASSW today are able to some degree to communicate in English, the aim is to continue to include more members from other language groups and from non-English speaking countries.

It is of high importance that IASSW documents that will affect the members are accessible to them linguistically; not only as a ‘fait-a-complit’, but that all members also have a fair chance to make their influence during the development process.

IASSW realises that there is a difference in people’s competence to read, listen to and understand English to speak and present papers and take part in discussions at Board meetings and congresses. To make sure a real exchange is taking place and that people from various cultures and language groups have fair opportunities, we need to organise our congresses and meetings in ways so that not the same people are always in an inferior position. Thus, sometimes minority languages might even become dominant ones. People from the dominating languages may have to realise that international communication is a challenge for all of us.

What is IASSW language policy ?

IASSW recognises that there is and should be no difference in value and importance among any languages and all languages on this earth should be treated equally, regardless of the number of their users, not to mention to Articles 2 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Considering (1) the real nature of social work and IASSW whose mission is to devote itself to the promotion of social work education, (2) the IASSW historical development, (3) our membership distribution, and (4) the practicality for the organizational operation, IASSW adopted the following language policy for the time being in the board meeting, Washington, D.C., 13. July 2005 (Revised in the board meeting, Toronto, 11. July, 2007).

IASSW languages

IASSW have four official languages: English, French, Chinese (simplified), Spanish and Japanese. These are the languages the majority number of IASSW member schools belongs to. However, English is the dominant one due to both lack of financial and human resources.


The aim is to translate all important documents into the four official languages.  The following three documents: Ethics in Social Work: Statements of Principles, Global Definition of Social Work and Global Standards for Social Work Education and Trainingare now published by Sage as a comprehensive book in English, Spanish and French. It is a joint IASSW and IFSW production. All IASSW members receive a copy of the publication.

The three documents will be translated into Japanese and published separately. This is a joint project with the Japanese Association of Schools of Social Work. It will be distributed to all Japanese members and everybody else who express an interest.


The web should contain in four languages:

  1. the three documents mentioned above
  2. the IASSW history and profile
  3. promotion material
  4. Headings of promotion material translated into as many languages as possible with links to the four languages for further information
  5. the officers in cooperation with the language committee should continuously assess what material should be translated into the four languages

Translations of the three documents are welcomed in as many languages as possible on the website. The translations have to be of high quality, whether professionally or voluntary done. To assure the quality

  1. a professional social work educator has to proof – read and secure the update of the translation
  2. if costs are implied in the quality assurance, an application could be submitted to the Board
  3. the name of the translator and proof-reader should appear on the document


Regional languages where the congresses are to be held should guide the decisions of the number of official languages into which there should be translation.

Plenary sessions should be translated into at least four languages including the official languages adopted in the preceding paragraph. They will to some degree depend on in which region the congress is taking place, and has to be decided in accordance with the expected number of participants taking using a specific language. If the number of registration does not reach the expected number, it may be possible to cancel one of the four language mentioned above.

If at a later stage in planning the conference it becomes clear that participants using a fifth language reach a certain number, this should be added as a fifth congress language.

At the congresses at least some paper sessions should be bi-lingual with translations into some of the other congress languages adopted in the second paragraph above.

Brochures for the congresses should be produced in the four official languages with inexpensive versions made available in other languages and on the website.

An opportunity to organise workshops/paper presentations/interests groups/posters in various languages should be offered and announced.

10-15 % discount on registration for participants who offer to translate for colleagues, this will also account for students.

Meeting places or resource groups should be made accessible where people may support each other with translation.

IASSW Standing Committee

The IASSW Board has a standing committee on language. The committees’ task is to highlight the importance of inclusiveness by language and remind and encourage the IASSW of its policy at all levels of the association.

The committee takes part in planning of the congress and discusses with the organisers

  1. translation into what and how many languages, official and regional ones
  2. what and how many workshops etc. should be organised in various languages
  3. the availability of submitting abstracts in the mother tongues of the presenter as well as in an official language
  4. make sure that Guidelines for speakers, that are adopted by the IASSW Board, are sent to congress keynote speakers and presenters.