This is the fourth and final article in a series called “Improving Communication with Foreign Co-workers.” In previous articles, I talked about how we should resist the urge to reduce the challenges that are associated with communicating with foreign co-workers or employees down to simply being a linguistic deficiency on the part of the foreigner and consider subtle aspects of language that are commonly overlooked that we can become aware of that can make significant contributions towards mitigating barriers to communication with foreign co-workers. In this article, I’ll wrap up the series by discussing a few concrete measures that can be taken to proactively address communication problems between American and foreign personnel.
Overcoming the Challenges
So, if you are an American company who has foreign expat professionals working among your workforce, how do you address these challenges? Here are two recommendations. First of all, contract the services of a quality ESL language class provider. Secondly, assume an equal level of accountability for effective communication with foreign expat workers.
Contract with a Quality ESL Provider
It’s important to provide linguistic support to your foreign expat workforce by utilizing the services of a quality ESL language service provider. How do you identify a quality ESL provider? One of the most important attributes of a quality ESL provider is that they place a high priority on identifying and working with highly qualified and experienced ESL teachers. They also pay them commensurately. At the company that I run, Premiere English, I look for teachers that have had significant practical ESL teaching experience abroad. I just feel really strongly that if you want to reach your students, it is critical that you be able to empathize with them by having been in their shoes at some point. To me, a large part of teaching is not merely imparting knowledge, it’s connecting and building a rapport with your students and I feel that my years of teaching overseas were of incredible value in helping me to do that. I also believe that a quality ESL provider also does a good job in assessing a company’s language needs and then delivering the service effectively not only on the front end (in terms of quality instruction, a well organized learning approach, and professional instructors who prepare effective classes and consistently show up on time) but also on the backend (in terms of accurate record keeping and invoicing). Sadly, many ESL providers are lacking on both ends.
It’s important for companies that employ foreign expats to put themselves on the same side of the table when it comes to facilitating effective communication. Creating a corporate culture that promotes a heightened level of self-awareness in situations that require an American coworker or superior to communicate or interact with a foreign expat can be incredibly beneficial. By self-awareness, I am referring to monitoring the way you use English when communicating with a foreign expat. Taking care to remove idioms and avoiding reductions when communicating can significantly improve communication. Observing when an expat might look confused by something you said and taking the time to rephrase what you said in more vanilla language can make a big difference. Not only will communication improve, the confidence and comfort level of the foreign expat will improve. Contracting with a quality ESL language class provider to provide cultural awareness and communication consultation can also be of immense value.
When accountability for effective communication is equally distributed between the foreign expat and his American coworkers, communication issues can be significantly reduced if not eliminated.