You probably already know that the language of global business is English. But, there are many businesses and markets where English is a secondary language or isn’t used at all.
There are always going to be circumstances within a business where two people cannot communicate with each other in the same language. Why does this matter? Because poor communication between coworkers is one of the biggest causes of decreased productivity in the workplace.
But, there isn’t any reason why this should hinder productivity, both internally and externally. Check out the best tips for how you can break down the language barrier in your business below.
1. Provide Your Workers With Language Lessons
Around three-quarters of Americans only speak English. This monolingualism isn’t always great for doing business globally.
If you have employees from all over the world, you may struggle to get your workforce to communicate effectively with each other.
You could make things much easier by providing language lessons for your employees. This is an excellent example of workplace training and development.
Research shows that learning another language is good for your brain function. By providing language classes, you could also bolster your workforce’s engagement and productivity.
2. Encourage Shared Cultural Understanding
Cultural diversity is a great advantage for your workplace. Studies have shown that it can help you to increase your revenue by up to 19 percent.
But, does the diversity of culture and language ever cause conflict in the workplace? In some instances, it absolutely can.
That’s why it’s so important that you encourage cultural understanding among your workforce. If you don’t ensure people are tolerant of each other’s language and culture, the problem could get even worse.
Language isn’t only about the words we use. There are also many unspoken gestures and phrases that could cause misunderstandings depending on which cultures are interacting.
Making sure people are aware of the potential misunderstandings can help to ensure that your employees get along better.
3. Stick to Plain Language as Much as Possible
Do you have native speakers in your workforce? They may be using complex language, colloquialisms and culturally-specific humor regularly.
It’s not going to be easy for everyone else to understand what they’re saying if this happens frequently.
Business English is meant to simplify the language in the workplace. In addition to important relevant business and industry words, plain language should be used.
This shouldn’t only be when employees are speaking with each other. It’s important that simple language is adopted in emails, presentations and internal documents.
4. Translate Content into the Appropriate Languages
You may need to ensure that you have documents and presentations translated. This will help any members of your team that cannot communicate in the shared language as well as provide them with the same level of understanding as everyone else.
To accomplish this, you should consider hiring a professional translation service that is familiar with your industry terminology and the relevant languages. This can ensure that everything is accurate and appropriately translated. You definitely don’t want to cause more confusion with poor translations.
5. Hire an Interpreter for Meetings
When you’re holding a meeting or presentation, you may also require a professional interpreter. This is someone who interprets what one person says before communicating the message in the other person’s preferred language.
This may be especially important if you have a meeting with a foreign client that doesn’t share your language. You need to make sure you have a shared understanding of what happened in the meeting.
Think having an interpreter come in is overkill? Try utilizing telephonic interpretation instead. You can get a qualified interpreter on the phone in seconds without minimums or monthly fees.
6. Explore Other Ways to Communicate
Breaking the language barrier sometimes requires you to think about language differently. Everyone knows that a «picture tells a thousand words.» Using visuals rather than words to get your point across is a great way to cut across languages.
Whenever you can use a graphic or photograph to convey a message to a diverse audience, you should do so.
Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on images to communicate. But, the more you use visuals, the better you’ll be understood.
7. Watch Out for Physical Gestures
Physical gestures change from culture to culture. One gesture may be perfectly acceptable in the U.S. while being considered extremely rude in China.
You need to think carefully about this when you’re doing business with people from different cultures from your own.
Ensuring that your workers are aware of the variety of gestures is also essential. This can make sure that people avoid taking offense as much as possible.
8. Ensure Everyone Respects Each Other
It’s vital that you ask your employees whether they feel respected by each other in the workplace.
This is especially urgent if you have a diverse workforce with people from different cultures who are speaking different languages.
Whatever happens, ensuring that everyone respects the differences around them is the best way you can make sure people understand each other.
Breaking Down the Language Barrier
If you want to break down the language barrier in your workplace, it’s important you follow these useful tips.
From introducing language classes to ensuring everyone displays respect towards each other, there are many ways to make sure everyone understands each other clearly.
Are you facing a language barrier in your office right now? Give us a shout! We can certainly help.
Nick joined the team in 2017 to spearhead Argo’s expanding marketing initiatives. He graduated from North Central College in Naperville, IL with a BA in political science and a minor in global studies. Previously, he worked as a digital strategist for innovative marketing agencies in Chicago and as a political consultant for domestic and international clients in Washington, DC.