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How To Overcome Language Barriers In The Workplace


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Today, most offices hire from different cultures around the world, and language barriers can occur at any time. This could lead to a lot of miscommunication! 

However, if you take the right steps, you will surely be able to overcome language barriers in the workplace. I would always recommend that you practice community building to create a happy and friendly atmosphere in the office. 

If people like each other in general, then half your problems are solved. Encourage team-building activities and exploring new cultures. Also, pay attention to the following steps where I have spoken about the other ways that can help. 

#1 Get someone to translate: While I believe that arranging for language classes would be a better idea, it may not always be possible. First of all the work pressure might be too much or employees may simply not be interested. 

However, having a translator in the office could help out a lot. They could help in translating what others say, and you can try to remember the key phrases that other members use in their own language. With time, interaction, and attention, you will start understanding some of the simple and regular phrases that others usually say. 

#2 Talk in easy language: Your office might have people whose first language is not English. However, they might understand English to a certain extent, and hence, you can use some easy phrases and words. If you use too many idioms, they might not be able to understand your words. 

Also, when it comes to sending official mails, ask people from other cultures to mention the key points only. They do not need to write a lot as that increases the chances of going wrong with the grammar or words. 

#3 Prevent using gestures: When an office has a mixed group, it is best to be mindful of the hand gestures that you do, as that might be insulting. While a certain kind of hand wave works for people from America, the same action might be considered insulting to an employee from Japan. 

#4 Use more pictures to explain: Everybody understands images and pictures, and hence, using graphs and pictures may help overcome a language barrier. If you have to conduct a lot of meetings to discuss important issues, try using as many visuals as possible. Also, keep an interpreter or a translator by your side who can help in translating parts that are difficult to understand. 

Have you had to overcome language barriers in the workplace? What steps did you take to overcome this?

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One of my classes when I was still in college had a girl from South Korea. She knew minimal English so she was kind of learning as she went. I couldn't believe it watching her progress over the semester. I think this was down to people being able to help her along the way, including having a very patient teacher. 

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