Language barriers can make it difficult to communicate effectively with people you work with or know personally. Work on breaking down the barriers using translators, interpreters, and language classes, and also do your best to communicate clearly when speaking to native and non-native speakers. You can also take certain steps to communicate better when you're traveling in another country, such as learning a few phrases, being patient, and taking a translation app or dictionary with you.
Method 1 of 3:Making Office Communication Easier
1Hire an interpreter when there could be confusion. If you don't speak a common language with the people you're working with or neither of you speaks the same language very well, an interpreter is essential. They can help you avoid costly communication mistakes, as well as comical and embarrassing blunders.
You can hire an in-person interpreter in your country or another country. You can also use over-the-phone interpretation services, where you have a go-between who speaks both languages.
2Use a translation service for documents you need to share. While you can find free translation services online, it's often best to go with an expert. Non-human translation services tend to make more mistakes in translation than human translators. Find a local translator who knows both languages by searching online.
Also, a human translator will be able to pick better translations for words or phrases that don't have exact counterparts in the other language.
3Offer on-the-job language training for non-native speakers. Have classes available to workers in your office who don't speak the language fluently yet. If you offer it during work hours or just after, you'll make it easy for people to work on improving their language skills, which will make office communication more efficient.
Similarly, if you often work with people from another country, consider offering classes in that language in your office. That way, you show you're willing to go the extra mile to communicate well.
4Make sure you know what language is spoken in a particular area. Many countries have more than 1 official language. Don't make assumptions about what's spoken around the office in another country; ask to make ensure you can accommodate those speakers.
For instance, in Belgium, Dutch, German, and French are all spoken in different regions.
Method 2 of 3:Communicating Concepts Clearly in the Workplace
1Enunciate and speak slowly to help listeners understand. Mumbling can lead to miscommunication, particularly with non-native speakers. Make sure to say your words clearly and don't go too fast. Words can run together if you speak too fast.
Similarly, make sure you are speaking loud enough to be heard. If you're not sure, ask people if they can hear you okay, especially if you tend to be a soft speaker.
If you have trouble with enunciation, try recording yourself and playing it back to hear how you sound. Then, work on saying the words more clearly.
2Pick the most common word choices. Using obscure or odd words can be fun if you're a logophile, but it can make your communication less effective. Choosing more common, shorter words will help you get your message across better.
In addition, try to avoid using words that have double meanings or ones that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.
For example,"allowed"and"aloud"could be confused when you're speaking them. Try"encouraged,""authorized,"or"permissible"instead of"allowed,"and"out loud"instead of"aloud."
3Avoid using jargon when speaking to non-team members. People on your team likely understand the jargon you use, but outside of that context, it's best to drop it. Jargon makes it more difficult for others to understand, particularly non-native speakers who may have a more rudimentary grasp of the language.
Speaking without jargon will help even native speakers, as they can get just as lost as non-native speakers if they don't know the technical terms.
4Replace idioms when speaking to non-native speakers. Idioms are phrases that are particular to a culture that don't have a straightforward meaning. For example, an idiom in English is"It's raining cats and dogs,"which means it's raining very hard. When you use idioms with people who aren't native speakers or even who aren't from your culture, you can cause confusion.
For example, instead of saying someone has"cold feet,"you could say they're"nervous about committing."
5Add pictorial elements when explaining difficult concepts. Whether you're talking to people who are fluent in the same language you are or not, using pictures, diagrams, and charts can make explaining a concept much easier. Pictures help eliminate confusion about what you're saying, while diagrams and charts help present data and trends in an organized way that helps people synthesize the information.
For instance, if you're trying to explain how your company's sales are trending, a graph is an easy and effective way to present that information.
6Repeat difficult concepts when you need to. Even people who speak the same language as you will need to hear some concepts more than once to grasp them. This is especially true if you're introducing something new or particularly difficult. Try to say the concept in a different way the second time to help increase your chances of your audience understanding.
For example, you might say,"This sales prediction model is based on customer behavior in the store. It uses psychology to determine how and when the customer will buy products."
7Check in with your audience to ensure they're understanding. Stop and ask questions from time to time so listeners can request clarification. That way, you can see what you need to be clearer about moving forward and what everyone mostly understands already.
You might say,"Is everyone getting this? Are there any questions?"
Method 3 of 3:Traveling when You're a Non-native Speaker
1Jump in with the few phrases you know. It can be daunting to try to speak another language, particularly if you only know a couple of words or phrases. However, most people will appreciate the effort even if it doesn't get you very far with what you're trying to say.
Don't worry if they laugh a little at you! It's usually good-natured.
2Use technology to help you translate phrases you don't know. Many translation apps are available to help you when traveling. Some just function as translation dictionary where you type in words to translate, while others will even attempt to translate spoken sentences and phrases.
Check the app store for your phone type to find translation apps. Check user reviews to find a good app!
3Learn about regional differences in the language. While it's not possible to learn everything about a regional dialect when you're just visiting, learning some basics can help you get along better while there. For instance, if you're an American traveling in London, you might want to look up some of the differences in what certain things are called to help you communicate better.
For example, the words"sweater,""eggplant,""trunk,"and"biscuit"in American English are referred to as"jumper,""aubergine,""boot,"and"scone"in British English. Even then,"biscuit"to"scone"isn't an exact translation, and Brits use"biscuit"to refer to a hard type of cookie typically eaten with tea.
4Ask others to go slowly or repeat themselves as needed. When you don't understand, it's fine to ask for the person to say what they said again or even say it in a different way. Most people are happy to work together to figure out communication across a language barrier.
It's also fine to try to find a common language. For instance, in Europe, many people speak a second language. Sometimes, that's English, but other times it may be French or German. If you speak some of one of those languages, you're more likely to be able to communicate with them.
5Be tolerant and patient when there's a language barrier. When you're communicating with someone who doesn't speak the same language fluently, it's going to take longer to figure out what you want to say. Try not to get frustrated, as that will only make the situation worse. Stay calm and repeat yourself as often as you need.
Also, it doesn't hurt to get creative. Try drawing pictures or pulling up an image on your phone
6Avoid getting louder to overcome a language barrier. It's a common mistake to raise your voice when a person doesn't understand you. However, when the problem is you don't speak the same language, shouting at the other person isn't going to help. In fact, it may make the other person frustrated or mad.