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Communication techniques -- overcoming language barriers

Updated July 20, 2017

Most people have experienced the frustration of trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak the same language or is not fluent in your language. Understandably, this creates a language barrier. Luckily, there are many communication techniques to help overcome language barriers.

Use Common Forms of Communication

Many people forget that there are forms of communication that are common to humans, regardless of language. These forms of communication are emotions and body language. There are many gestures, such as waving, that have the same meaning across different cultures. Even acting words out may be helpful. Communication also can be benefited from well-expressed emotions through facial expressions. A non-native speaker may not pick up the variances in speech that convey emotions, but they most likely can recognise facial expressions.

Prevent Misunderstandings

When communicating with someone who does not share a common language with you, it is important to speak slowly and enunciate. This may seem time consuming, but it can prevent many misunderstandings and eliminate problems in the future. Also, it is important to ask for clarification if you don't understand something, as this eventually saves time for all parties involved.

Avoid Culture Clashes

Avoid using idioms and other language that may not be understood by someone who speaks another language. For example, think about what "it's raining cats and dogs" would sound like to someone who didn't know the expression. Furthermore, try to keep the influence of culture neutral in the conversation. It is easier to understand each other when focusing solely on interpreting the language; don't add interpreting the culture to the mix.

Use Other Mediums of Communication

Spoken language can seem quite fast, especially for someone who is not fluent in the language. An e-mail or other written form of communication can be easier for someone to interpret since they are not trying to listen to the conversation and interpret it at the same time. Even something as simple as drawing a picture can confirm or enhance understanding.

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About the Author

Janelle Martel started writing professionally for eHow in 2010. She has worked as an online tutor and career help specialist, as well as in education. Janelle is currently working towards her Bachelor of Arts in psychology.