How to Overcome Language Barriers in the Workplace

In this day and age, multinational corporations are a dime a dozen and most international offices are largely populated by local employees.  This, along with an agenda of diversification, has made it almost impossible to work in the corporate world without dealing with the difficulties of language barriers.

Although it is certainly an exciting time to be entering the global workforce, with technology allowing for greater communication opportunities and a wide variety of people across continents and cultures becoming acclimated to the corporate environment, finding ways to overcome differences in dialect and get everybody speaking the same language is not as simple as…well…actually speaking the same language.

Suppose that an American company sets up shop in countries across the globe.  They will almost certainly require employees from the local populace, who not only speak the language and understand the nuances of local culture (so as to make the corporate impact less invasive and upsetting), but also don’t need to move in order to take a job.  However, they will probably hire with the proviso that candidates for employment also speak English.  If there isn’t at least one common language, business operations will quickly come to a standstill.  Of course, French companies may ask that the common language amongst employees be French, while Japanese companies would obviously prefer that their own native language be common amongst their foreign offices, and so on.

But the potential language barrier does not disappear simply because everyone has technically learned the same language.  In fact, it can be even harder to pinpoint miscommunications when people are speaking the same language but failing to understand what is being said.  Language is something that all of us learn from a young age.  And while we can learn to speak other languages later on, it can take years of immersion to understand not only the nuances of syntax and semantics (not to mention slang, double meanings, etc.), but to fully comprehend the cultural references that pepper a particular dialect.  And then there are accents to contend with.  In truth, it’s pretty amazing that anything gets done in business when multiple language barriers exist.

However, there are ways to overcome these barriers.  Over time, those who communicate in a foreign language will begin to learn what different forms of speech convey, they will improve their vocabulary, and their strong accent will fade as they hear others speak correctly.  In addition, those who are speaking their native language, but trying to understand colleagues that are practicing a second language, will eventually develop an ear for the accent so that they can better decipher what is being said.

This isn’t to say that there won’t still be problems, but through continued usage and learning, anyone can improve their skill at linguistics.  And it behooves everyone to exercise a high level of patience and understanding; after all, it isn’t easy trying to speak a second language to someone for whom the dialect is native.  It can be embarrassing and frustrating for both parties, so some measure of levity is advisable.  The best course of action for everyone is to keep trying so that eventually, everyone learns to communicate more effectively.

About the Author: Sarah Danielson writes for Purchase Order Finance in China. With purchase order financing you can grow your business and pave the way for more.

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