3 Effective Tips for Overcoming Language Barriers

If you’re like most modern professionals, your clients, co-workers, and professional contacts hail from across the globe. This means you interact with people whose first language may not be English on a regular basis. Last week we talked about how using non-literal language (e.g., idioms and slang) can confuse communication with non-native English speakers. Today we’ll talk about a few other ways you can make sure you’re communicating your message in a clear way for all your professional contacts.

  • Keep Slow and Clear: If English is not your conversation partner’s native language, be careful not to rush. Keep your pace natural, but relaxed to give your listener time to absorb your message. Also be sure to enunciate all the sounds of each of your words, particularly at the ends of words, so your listener can tell where one word ends and the other begins. Running your words together makes it particularly difficult for others to understand your speech.
  • Rephrase as Necessary: It doesn’t matter how understandable your speech is if your listener has never learned the words you are using. If your listener seems to be unfamiliar with a word, try to use a different word that has the same meaning. Sometimes the construction of a sentence can also be confusing. If your listener looks lost, try repeating your sentence in a different, more direct way.
  • Don’t Be Shy: Ask! If you are not a native English speaker and are having difficulty understanding, don’t be afraid to ask your conversation partner to slow down or to repeat themselves. If you are unsure of a point, restate it to your conversation partner to make sure you fully understand their point.

  • Related: Do You Make These Mistakes With Cross Cultural Communication?

    If your communication skills are holding you back from professional success and you want to make your communication skills your most powerful professional tool, make sure to pick up a free copy of my e-book “Communicate with Clarity and Confidence!” by subscribing to our newsletter community on our website. In this free resource, I break down the myriad factors that contribute to confident communication and guide you through how to use each aspect to your advantage. Want more?