5 Easy Ways to Prevent Foreign Language Disasters

Have you ever had trouble communicating with someone who doesn’t speak your language well? When traveling or doing business abroad, some miscommunication is inevitable! These challenges can easily become hurdles or barriers to successful communication, but there are several techniques that you can use to overcome potential problems. The following techniques can help you in almost any situation:


1. ASK: Ask important questions in two different ways by varying the words and sentence structure. If you get a different response to each question, that’s a red flag waving. You haven’t communicated clearly, so try again!


2. ECHO: After making your point, ask the other party to state what he or she thinks you said. If this is different from what you intended, you’ll know there’s a problem. This helpful strategy also works when communicating with someone who speaks your language!


Communicating effectively is tricky business, especially when you’ve got to overcome language or cultural differences. Using these tips can help you minimize the difficulty so that you create a positive experience, foster understanding and make a good impression as you communicate with speakers of other languages.


3. CLARIFY: Sometimes people say “yes,” okay,” or nod their head to indicate that they hear you. This does not necessarily mean that they agree, or that they are giving you an affirmative answer. They may not understand what you are saying, or simply don’t know any other words to use. So be sure to clarify what the nod means rather than assuming it signals acceptance and agreement.


4. MONITOR: Body language can play a significant role in the communication process. This includes everything from the distance between you to micro-expressions that may be too minimal or brief to assess well. People from many cultures will not give a direct “no,” but will instead use more subtle ways to communicate disinterest. That means it’s important to monitor body language signals and use additional strategies to be sure you’re getting the right message if it’s at all unclear.


5. CONFIRM: If this is a business discussion, confirm everything in writing after the discussion. This technique is simple, but amazingly effective in preventing problems. If there is a problem, the written follow-up will uncover miscommunications before they create serious issues.

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