In today’s multicultural world (depending on where you live) it is common to engage with people for whom English is not their first language. While sometimes the interaction may be casual, with not much at stake, other times business deals, potential sales or enduring relationships may be at stake. Here are three tips to spoil the relationship from the get-go.
1. If he or she seems not to understand what you’ve said, repeat it verbatim, only louder. In fact shout it out. The louder you speak English, the easier it is to understand.
2. If the person is with an interpreter, boyfriend, child, who speaks better English, speak directly to the interpreter, boyfriend, child. Turn your body to face that person, so that your body language also communicates that you are speaking with latter. Use the third person, as in “where is he from?”
3. If he or she is speaking English with you, albeit with an accent, interrupt and ask what language they speak, or just assume they speak Spanish, and answer in Spanish. That’s particularly effective if the person is from Russia. Actually, on this last one, the reaction does vary from person to person. Sometimes people are relieved to be able to communicate in their native language, others will be offended, because they are speaking English.
While speaking louder doesn’t work, re-framing what you’ve said, or simply coming up with another way to phrase it can help, and addressing the person with whom you are speaking is a matter of respect. For the final one, it may vary depending on the context of your interaction, and you may be able to take your lead from the person with whom you are speaking.
Any langague barriers you have experienced? Have you been on the receiving end, when in another country? How did it feel?
photo credit, Flickr: Tranchis