If you’re like most modern professionals, your colleagues and clients likely come from a variety of multicultural and multilingual background. This diversity has helped enrich the workplace with varying viewpoints and work styles. Unfortunately, language differences can also hinder productivity and connectivity in the workplace. Last week, we discussed how native speakers of English can improve their speech skills to help improve communication with non-native English speakers in the workplace, touching on increasing clear speech and how to rephrase language for better understanding. Today, we present part two in our series on how to improve communication with non-native speakers of English in the workplace:
- Don’t Rush: Understanding speech in a second language takes and increased amount of processing time. If you rush while speaking to a colleague or client who speaks English as a second language, they can easily miss words or phrases that you’re saying. This can lead to the entire conversation breaking down if you don’t realize that your listener is lost.
- Choose Your Words Carefully: Native English speakers use far more idioms than they realize. Just think about “biting the bullet,” “climbing the corporate ladder” or “touching base” with a colleague. If a person is unfamiliar with these sayings, they make very little sense in conversation. Try to use the most literal language possible when speaking to your non-native English speaking colleagues and clients.
- Check In: While some people will stop you and ask you to clarity or repeat yourself if they don’t understand you, many people will not. To make sure your message is being understood correctly, be proactive and check in with your listener. After an important point, briefly ask, “Does that make sense?” or “Do you have any questions?” Better yet, summarize your point in a clear, concise manner: “So what I’m saying is…” This ensures that you and your listener are on the same page and heads off misunderstandings in advance.
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