The American workplace is more and more an international one. Through internship or residency programs, we work daily with non-native English speakers who have been in the U.S. for only a few years, or who even arrived just recently. Online, we’re communicating globally through video chats and e-conferencing. Modern travel and the internet have blurred the borders of our world.
What does this mean for the American professional whose co-workers now come not only from across town, but across the globe? Your international co=workers probably dedicated much of their time and energy to learn English in order to have the job and life they desire. We, in turn, should appreciate that effort by evaluating how our communication skills can welcome them into our workplaces and help them continue to improve.
In this ongoing series on cross-cultural communication, today I offer three ways to…
1. Use Plain English
Keeping it simple for your foreign-born co-workers means paring down the words you use. It doesn’t mean you’re dumbing things down for them… after all, these are professionals who are performing their job in a second language. That alone requires skill and intelligence! However, that doesn’t mean they’re familiar with all the vocabulary in the English language.
For example, say “moving” instead of “transitioning”… or “friendly” instead of “amicable.” If a co-worker has to constantly stop to look up words you’ve used, you have slowed productivity for them and your team, and reduced their confidence in communicating with you. You want just the opposite.
2. Repetition is Helpful
Call a spade a spade… and keep calling it a spade! Changing the word you use to reference a project or piece of equipment will only confuse a non-native speaker, who thought they had already learned the word you wanted to use.
Repetition of labels allows an international worker to become quickly familiar with these ideas, and move past the learning stage to a deeper level of confident communication.
3. Offer to Explain
Remember to kindly ask if there are any words that were unfamiliar to them, or any concepts that they would like repeated or explained in a different way.
This simple gesture will show you care that your co-worker understands you, and that you value their communication with you. To know they can ask you for an explanation without feeling embarrassed builds trust for your professional relationship.
If you’d like more strategies on communicating with the non-native English speakers in your workplace, or would like to offer your workers accent reduction classes or seminars, please contact Lisa Scott for a consultation… and visit AccentuateCommunication.com for more on how we can help you break down cross-cultural workplace barriers.