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Multicultural Communication: Communicating with Non-Native English Speakers

Jayne Latz Multicultural Communication: Communicating with Non-Native English SpeakersAs globalization continues to grow at a breakneck pace, the workplace has become an increasingly multicultural environment. Whether clients, colleagues, or employees at offices overseas, most professionals will need to communicate with someone who is a non-native speaker of English.

When communicating with a person who speaks English as a second language, many people try to make themselves understood by using techniques that are ineffective; for example, by talking louder. Clearly, this type of compensation, while well intentioned, does little for helping overcome the language barrier and is likely to make your conversation partner uncomfortable. But there are some simple steps you can take to ensure communication flows as smoothly as possible when talking with a person whose first language is not English:

Speak Slowly and Clearly: When listening to English, it takes a non-native speaker more time to process individual words as they are being spoken. If the conversation is flowing too quickly, it’s likely that a non-native speaker may miss a word or two, confusing the message. Likewise, running your words together can make them very difficult to understand. Once a listener has lost the thread of a conversation, it can be extremely difficult to recover. Avoid misunderstandings by slowing down your rate of speech and making sure that you are pronouncing the beginning and end sounds of each word without running them together.

Say It Another Way: Although clear speech is important, it doesn’t matter how understandable your speech is if your listener is unfamiliar with the actual words you are saying. Complex grammar or long, convoluted sentences can also complicate communication. If your listener seems confused, try substituting more common, basic vocabulary and simplifying your message by breaking it down into several shorter sentences or phrases.

Avoid Slang: The English language is filled with phrases that don’t mean exactly what they say. Try to think of how you would interpret the following phrases if you had never heard them before: “On the fence,” “Cold feet,” “Drop me a line”. If your listener looks confused in conversation, think about what you just said and use the most literal language possible.

Are you a non-native speaker of English? What sort of communication techniques help you when understanding others in the workplace? Share your story in our comments section!

Do you want to improve your communication skills and sharpen your speech? At Corporate Speech Solutions, our team of corporate speech-language pathologists can help you reach your professional potential through strong, confident communication. Give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Don’t live in NYC? No problem! Our services are Skype ready, so Corporate Speech Solutions can help you improve your communication from anywhere in the world.

Jayne Latz; President and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions

Jayne Latz
Corporate Speech Solutions
(212) 308-7725