Arabic, French Creole, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Spanish – Representing Clients where English is their Second Language (ESL)

Tampa, Florida is a vibrant, multicultural city with a population drawn from across the globe.  In addition to Spanish, the top languages spoken in Tampa include:

  • Arabic
  • French and French Creole (Haiti)
  • Asian and Pacific Islands
  • Portuguese
  • Vietnamese
  • Chinese
  • Spanish

The challenge for these residents is finding legal defense representation from an attorney who can understand their culture, and effectively communicate with and represent someone for whom English is a second language.

Cultural Understanding

Many people who have immigrated to the United States have a different understanding of the justice system or may not realize that their actions are classified as criminal in this country.  Also, some defendants who have a different cultural background often have an educational level different from the traditional K-12 of typical Americans.  Skilled criminal defense attorneys take the time to understand their client’s background and cultural expectations both to help their client appreciate the American justice system but also to identify cultural issues which may aid them in representing their clients.


While no attorney can be fluent in every language, it is critical to find someone who is comfortable and experienced with communicating to people whose native language is other than English.  They should be able to appreciate the cultural norms of their clients and be able to adapt their communication to effectively communicate with them.  These defense attorneys know how important it is that their client understands specific legal terms and that the best way to achieve this understanding is through interpreters or family members.


Trust between the client and attorney is the key to effective representation and experienced criminal defense attorneys will use interpreters or client family members who are fluent in English to translate for them to establish this trust.  These attorneys know that they often learn the information they need to best present their cases from their client or family members and will work to overcome the communication challenges.  Effective legal council will take the time to understand their client’s cultural norms that may have influenced their behaviors.

Board certified criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte has represented hundreds of clients for whom English is a second language.  Many of his clients speak Arabic, Chinese, French Creole, Spanish and other languages now common in the Tampa area.

He appreciates the need for communication and cultural understanding to effectively represent his clients, using professional or family interpreters to develop the trust necessary to create the partnership a strong defense requires.

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