Business and leisure take us everywhere, whether through travel or the Internet: across waters, state lines, time zones, and continents. They also take us to different cultures. As such, it’s important that we know how to adapt communications best practices to a wide range of languages and regional mores. Here are a few tips to keep you on the right track.
1. Be informed. Make sure you have background information on your audience’s country of origin. A basic familiarity of current events and issues, geography and history will help break down any initial barriers.
2. Be respectful. Do your research on local customs – from gestures to common language. Having some basic research on behavior do’s, don’ts and local social protocols shows respect and can save you (and them) from embarrassment.
3. Speak clearly and repeat. Even if they speak English, or you speak their language, don’t assume that your audience can follow your train of thought effortlessly. Be aware of your pace, pauses, pitch and volume when speaking. Watch for cues, and if necessary, speak more slowly than usual, making eye contact, and pausing to give the audience a chance to absorb your information. This applies even if an interpreter is helping out; he or she needs time to translate precisely.
4. Avoid jargon and/or slang. Not all words translate the same way across cultures. Be aware of using acronyms and pop-culture language. Keep your talk simple and to the point.
5. Be aware of people’s bubbles. Be sure to leave enough space between you and the person or group of people you’re speaking with. People from different cultures have different concepts of “personal space” – what’s acceptable to you may not be to others. And be familiar with the local accepted forms of verbal and physical greeting for different situations.