5 Ways to Manage Communication in a Multilingual Organization

Communication is the key factor in business practices around the world.  However, when working for a multilingual organization you may find that co-workers and clients speak languages that you are not fluent in.  These language barriers pose a dilemma so you will need to find new ways to communicate thoughts and ideas as effectively as possible.  But these language barriers can be overcome.  Here are five ways to communicate with others at a multilingual company.


1.) Determine your level of communication and see if you understand any of the same words.

Once you have established that you and the other associate do not speak the same language use simple words to determine if you both recognize any of them.  If you are familiar with any of the words in their language, that’s great.  Otherwise, see if they understand any words in English.  Even a few basic words can help, whether it is in your language or vice versa.


2.) Don’t shout – be patient and polite.

Often times, people have a tendency to raise their voice when another person does not understand their language.  This volume can be interrupted as rude or aggressive.  Speak in your normal tone and volume; be patient.


3.) Avoid slang words or phrases.

Keep your words concise and avoid slang that can be misinterpreted.  “Cut me some slack” or “once in a blue moon” may be popular phrases in the English language but can be confusing when translated in other languages.


4.) Use body language or hand gestures to communicate.

Simple gestures can often be effective in communicating basic ideas or meanings.  Pointing or using other hand gestures can convey size or location which can be helpful.  But keep it simple, some hand gestures that are common in America can be offensive in other countries.  For example, a thumbs up in America indicates a sign of approval but is offensive in Latin America and West Africa.


5.) Write it down.

Although some people may not understand a language verbally, they may be more familiar with written text.  If you each write down what you want to say, it may be easier to find commonalities and familiar words.

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