Cultural diversity increasingly changes every detail of our life. In such a mixed modern world, all of us need to learn how to play the game with rules. Or else we are likely to face some unpleasant consequences. Even worse, you may end up with judging eyes because of miscommunication.
For instance, I work for one Russian and one American company. Considering the cultural, political, and regional differences; the people of these companies have so many diversions. Making a joke about something can burst one into laughter but angers the other.
So, what do we need to do? Stop talking or keep so cold business talk without any piece of emotion? What are we going to do if we are angry or happy? As we all know, sometimes you just need to explain your emotions just with a few words to imply your anger or happiness. How is it possible?
In light of globalization, multicultural workplaces are getting shaped again to improve productivity and provide an effective work environment.
Today, we are going to talk about how does language barrier affect communication and how to handle language barriers in the workplace.
What is Language Barrier?
Basically, the language barrier definition is a kind of limitation that causes miscommunication between people or groups. Even if it is considered like speaking different languages, the language barrier also refers to national and cultural diversities. Miscommunication is likely to take place between an American and a British, or a Mexican and a Spanish. Think about yourself, could you convey the exact meaning of what you would like to say to your native opponent all the time? Regardless of speaking the same language, the language barrier is on the plate always.
The culture we are born into gives shape to our way of humor, anger, and manner of speaking. That’s why, no matter what language you speak, you make use of the language in a mindset you obtain from your culture.
Getting over the language barrier is hard even among native speakers. Definitely, it is harder if you speak to someone foreign to your language. Consequently, the hardest one is to communicate in a language neither of you is a native speaker of.
Whatever the language is, the first box you need to check is to identify the problem and drive to the way of solution. Or else, you’ll drive yourself crazy at the end of the day because of uncompleted or mistaken results.
The language barrier is not limited to foreign languages only. Every kind of written or spoken misleading communicative issue can be counted on it. Let’s check the language barrier examples.
Language and Dialect
The language itself is the first and foremost example of the language barrier. Depending on the spoken or written way of a foreign language, there are some difficulties for non-native people. The written channel makes comprehension easier than the spoken one because of the availability to use translation tools and time to think of the meaning out of context.
Even though it is not as crucial as language, dialect makes a difference too. Take India as an example. Over 720 different dialects are spoken in the country. There are great and small differences for sure among all of them.
Another one is your hometown. Even if there’s no dialect variation in your country, there must be some different colors like slang or the use of a word that is totally different in another region of the country.
Corporate Language Barrier
The fact that we need to split this section into two because one side of the coin is professional and the other one is the social area of the business.
- The Professional One
Here is the job of the marketing department. Lots of money is burned to create a glancing company image that is driven by written and verbal language. Repetitive brand slogans and commercials put the perfect image of the business into consumers’ minds. In addition to employees.
The barrier to professional corporate language is a matter of time. Newcomers are likely to find it odd that the company asks the workforce to use some specific words while talking to customers or other companies.
The smart way to get through the awkwardness is quick onboarding. In nature of the humanity, thinking of the reason why you need to use such words is expectable. After a short presentation, newbies get the real reason why they need to throw out marketing words.
- The Social-Cultural One
Let’s say that you stop by your friend's house and they watch a series. They burst into laughs in some scenes but you don’t get why they are laughing.
The same takes place in a work environment. After working in the same place for a long time, people build another level of coworking. Some words, people, managers, or the boss turn into a matter of joke for them. If you, the new one, fall into the long-term partnership, you’ll be like the guy seeing a series not watching the previous episodes.
Soon or late, you’ll get used to the environment and get familiar with the jokes. The best start is to be open to your new co-workers.
Give chance to your jokes. Do not forget that as long as you feel comfortable in a new workplace, others share the same feeling. Your cold-looking and anxious eyes are not helpful to melt the ice.
The jokes are just an example. Feeling comfortable makes way with the positive energy all around you. To speed up the orientation, do not hesitate to socialize. The last thought you should be worried about must be “What do they think about me if I ask this question?” for simple, daily questions. Asking how they are is not something bad.
They all know that you are the new guy there. I’m not trying to sugar the bitter pill. Some are a bit cold in their character or keep a distance. The best way to figure it out is to talk.
In a few weeks, you’ll reap the harvest of your outgoingness.
Technical Language Barrier
Considering your profession, plenty of terms are included in the business. You are likely to get lost in the conversation if you are not familiar at all.
Do your homework beforehand. A few typing and clicks on the web help you out by providing some knowledge about the business. Moreover, if you are totally lost in the talk, “I don’t know” is not a curse word. Simply ask colleagues what it means.
Always keep in mind that making as though you totally understand what the co-worker, boss, or manager mentioned at one time is a big mistake resulting in malpractice. After the meeting, they have in their mind that you are an apprehensive guy. On the flip side, you are burning yourself out to draw a conclusion out of their words.
Don’t act out the smart new guy in the office if you are not really. Ask again if you don’t get the point. Let them say slow-witted instead liar.
Put yourself into the shoes of the manager.
- You are talking and explaining everything all in one breath without any interruption by the new guy. But the result is totally irrelevant.
- In the other scenario, the new guy asks questions about the task and slows you down. The meeting takes more time than supposed to be. Even if you are overwhelmed a little, the new guy comes with a pleasant result.
Which one is better?
Physical Language Barrier
Some physical impediments like hearing loss or stuttering prevent the conveying of the message. Respect and empathy are key points to overcome the problem.
How to Overcome Language Barrier
"Our whole social environment seems to be filled with forces that exist only in our minds." Emile Durkheim
Everything new comes with a kind of fear in mind. Probable fails and mistakes circle our heads. Some are real and some are not. The smart way is to drop out unreasonable ones as much as possible.
We talked about some language barriers and how to deal with them shortly. Let’s dive deeper.
Simple is The Best - Plain Language
No matter if you are working with someone who speaks a different language or trying to explain technical issues to your native co-workers, it is important that everyone should speak the plain language as much as possible.
Although large words can make people sound smarter or more competent at their jobs, it does not help anyone if the message is not conveyed to the other party. Jargon and esoteric terminology can lead to miscommunications. Moreover, it may end up in misunderstanding. It is important to create a culture at work that encourages simplicity and explains all issues clearly.
Poor Communication Skills – Translation Services are an Option
You should seek out a translator if you work with international offices. Each document that is important for the company should be translated into your primary language. Especially legal papers do not have a second chance if once something goes wrong. Precautions save the day!
When looking for a service, be careful and verify their qualifications. Many websites and agencies claim they can translate text between so many languages, but not all of them will be able to handle different dialects. Sometimes, words may have different uses in different cultures.
Just a few days ago, I have come across an apology because of the wrong use of a word in the language of a top-tier payment services company. So, need to be careful.
Speed Up Adaption Period - Onboarding and Courses for New Employees
Include a crash course in technical terminology. Teams need to be able to explain the details of each product they sell or provide. To plan for the future, everyone must be able to speak the same language.
Offer free classes to learn the language of another international office if you are an international company. Moreover, you can provide language courses to your employees as a part of relocation if they are new in the country. These classes help many of the staff become fluent or conversational in the common language of the company.
Speaking is not The Only Way – Visualize the Communication
If words are not enough or too complicated, it's better to show than tell. Diagrams or infographics can be used to explain complex concepts. Visual cues can be a great way to get everyone on the same page and encourage creativity in thinking about new solutions.
A company resource database can help your team find information independently on topics they aren't familiar with. If you communicate mainly via email or instant messages, attaching these resources is a good idea to help explain company initiatives and answer common queries.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
Whether language barrier or not, people need to hear the same thing more than once in order to fully understand and retain it. Do not expect people to recall what you have said always. Make repeating the key points of your conversations.
Language barriers require patience, understanding, conscientiousness, and patience. When you and your team struggle to communicate, you should not raise your voice or shout.
Instead of speaking louder, speak slowly and clearly. Remember that the language barrier is not a sign of intelligence or comprehension. Keep speaking proper English and trying to find common ground so that they can understand.
Although language barriers can be difficult, working with people from different backgrounds is what drives innovation and creativity. Language barriers shouldn't stop you from embracing all that a diverse workplace offers.
Keep reading to get over barriers on the way to your success!