Cultural Differences & Language Barriers

Updated March 23, 2017

The world is full of different cultures and languages, even within single countries. Some nations, such as the United States, have people that speak several languages from around the world. These cultural differences and language barriers can create misunderstandings as a result of misinterpretations or similar issues.

Cultural Differences

Some cultures are emotional and boisterous, while others hide emotions and try to demonstrate only rational behaviour; these differences are widely variable around the world and by country. Cultures differ based on religious beliefs, educational systems, government, history and a wide range of other considerations. With so many variables, understanding when there are potential culture differences is a key to preventing problems that can result from the differences.

Language Barriers

Language barriers are not only the barriers which are obvious, like speaking a different language, but also the barriers which come from speaking the same language. Usually, barriers from the same language are subtle, but can create serious misunderstandings. For example, one person who speaks very quickly might confuse a non-native speaker, or cultural differences might cause individuals to interpret a word differently. These barriers can create arguments or embarrassing situations.

Problems from Cultural and Language Barriers

The main problems that arise from cultural differences and language barriers is misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Each party within the group need to learn about the others' cultures to attempt to prevent misunderstandings. In the case of language barriers, taking time to pay attention to the words spoken will prevent serious problems with language. Learning about various translations between words can minimise the problem, but usually it requires discussion if a misunderstanding takes place.

Body Language Differences

Facial expressions and body language differ as much as speaking aloud. For example, some cultures look directly into the eyes when speaking to you, while others will look down or away from your eyes when speaking. The use of body language can create as many misunderstandings as verbal language due to the misinterpretation of body language.

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