Did you know that currently 11.5% of the United States population is foreign-born? (Source: American Management Association) Not only that, but this percentage is on the rise. As many of you know first hand, this means we’ve become a global workforce, which has immense benefits but also comes with certain challenges. In order to continue to thrive in business we must learn the most effective ways to communicate with non-native speakers of English. Here are 10 recommendations you can implement immediately:
1. Keep your message as clear and straightforward as possible. Here’s an excellent resource consisting of 1500 words specifically aimed at non-native speakers of English. click here for Voice of America vocabulary list
2. Eliminate the use of slang vocabulary from your verbal and written communication since it doesn’t make sense to an international audience.
3. Monitor your rate of speech and strive to slow yourself down to ensure that you articulate clearly and precisely.
4. Pause more often, especially after conveying a main point. This space in between ideas is helpful because it offers your listeners time to process what they’ve just heard.
5. Limit your use of idiomatic language, which is often meaningless to the non-native speaker of English. (e.g. Instead of saying “You’re really working like a dog.” say “You work long hours.”)
6. Steer clear of contracted speech such as: shouldn’t, can’t, won’t. Instead, opt to say the non-contracted form (should not, cannot, will not).
7. Ask questions to check that others understand you, however avoid simply asking: Do you understand? or Is this clear? Most people don’t want to be rude and will automatically answer “yes.” It’s more effective to ask: What is your understanding of what I just said?
8. If it becomes apparent that there is a comprehension issue, avoid shouting or repeating the exact same message. It’s preferable to use a conversational volume and try restating your message using different words. Also, it often helps to use shorter sentences.
9. Be sure to face the person and don’t cover your mouth. Some non-native speakers of English may find it helpful to understand by watching your mouth movements, which provide additional cues.
10. Feel free to use visual cues. This can include drawing, spelling out a word, non-verbal language or developing an outline to send in advance.
Bonus Tip: As native speakers of English we’re in the habit or running many of our words together such as: gonna, wanna, whadya, kinda. These shortcuts simply don’t translate for the non-native speaker of English so it’s best to avoid them.
If you’ve ever tried conversing in another language, you know the inherent challenges and frustrations that go with the territory. Therefore, it often helps to put yourself in the shoes of the non-native speaker and be both patient and welcoming.
By following the recommendations in this post, you’ll be far more successful managing the communication challenges of our global workforce. Let me know how you do.