How to Communicate When English is NOT the Primary Language: Part 2


Greetings, in my last post, I described three steps we can take to improve communication with people who have difficulty speaking English: (1) have patience with the person; (2) make sure the noise level is low; and (3) use active listening to check for understanding.  Here are 4 additional actions that will improve your communication effectiveness:

1.  Speak Clearly and Concisely but Not in a Patronizing Manner.  One of the biggest mistakes that people make in cross-cultural communication is to “talk down” to someone because of their difficulty with English.  This can happen unintentionally so be aware of how you are responding, both verbally and non-verbally, to your speaking partner.

2.  Pay Close Attention to Nonverbal Clues.  Because of their difficulty with verbal communication, a person may communicate a significant part of the message by nonverbal means.  This can include the person’s facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and body language.

3.  Try Not to Finish the Person’s Sentences.  Sometimes this is difficult to do because you want the person to “spit it out” and tell you what’s on his or her mind.  However, your speaking partner may have trouble finding the right words. It is more effective to be patient, and let the person finish at his or her pace.

4.  Reduce Your Rate of Speech and Repeat or Rephrase Statements.  If necessary, speak more slowly, and repeat or rephrase statements until your communication partner understands.  Likewise, ask your partner to repeat statements if you don’t understand.

NEXT POST – December 12, 2008 

Working with Persons with Disabilities

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