A language is an essential tool that assists in expressing feelings and stating facts through a formal system. It is a gift which helps in opening our minds to knowledge that surrounds us so that we can understand, interpret and analyse information. Language includes words, gestures, symbols, signs and even sounds to communicate ideas and thoughts from person to person. The language barrier is a term used to express the difficulties that an individual or a group faces during communication. It is also referred to as linguistic barrier experienced by people speaking different dialects or languages.
The term language barrier prevents two or more people from understanding each other in the absence of a common language.
There are numerous languages spoken in the world, and some like English, Chinese, Urdu, French and Hindi are very popular. English is one of the common languages that is universally spoken and understood by one and many. Speakers use languages to exchange necessary information that will prove relevant in their personal and professional life.
The language barrier is considered a roadblock in the business world. Organisations are willing to spend lots of time, resources, money and effort to face this challenge effectively. Let us look at some of the linguistic difficulties that everyone faces so that we can look for ways of overcoming these obstacles.
Some common language barriers
Some of the most common language barriers are as follows
The native language of most countries is different, and this is why individuals have to face language barrier during their travels. It becomes tough to communicate your needs and requirements in the absence of a common language.
Some of the places are very popular because of tourists, and here you might find a way of communication; otherwise, it is not possible to express your thoughts successfully.
An Arabic speaking person travelling to the United States will encounter people who are speaking English. For him, it is a language barrier, especially if he is unaware of that language and is unable to communicate. Signs, symbols and gestures can be a help in overcoming this barrier as they do not share a common language.
2. Accents and dialects
One of the essential language barriers occurs because of different accent and dialect.
Even if two people are conversing in the same language, their accent can prove a significant obstacle. Suppose one person is from India and the other one has spent his entire life in the United States. Both are speaking in Hindi, which is their common language.
Still, it will be difficult for them to communicate effectively because of a different accent. Similarly, dialect is also a vital language barrier and prevents efficient communication between people.
Students from various communities are enrolled in a school. This is why the language barrier is most common in classrooms as you will find children from different backgrounds speaking different languages.
The schools generally have a common language as their speaking medium to overcome this obstacle. In the absence of a common language, it will not be possible for students to interact with each other and understand what their teachers are teaching. Sometimes different accents of the teachers also act as a linguistic barrier as they fail to engage the students.
Globalisation has been a blessing in disguise for business entities as it has opened the doors for hiring employees from different places.
This diversified workforce belongs to different cultures and speaks different languages. It acts as a barrier during effective communication.
Overcoming language barriers
Some of the essential tips in overcoming language barriers are as follows-
- Make sure the school has made a provision where the students are allowed to converse and interact in a common language during the school hours. Develop an education plan that will involve all the students irrespective of the language they are comfortable with. Creating equal opportunities to understand and communicate will boost student engagement and overcome language barriers.
- One way to overcome the language barrier in the classroom is by creating a support system that will motivate the children both inside and outside the school premises. Ensure that the teachers are creating exciting topics that will engage the interest of every student.
- Restructure the methods of learning so that active participation becomes voluntary as well as compulsory
- Come up with a learning structure that will ensure equal opportunities for the children. It will be an immense help in overcoming language barriers
- Use both verbal and non-verbal cues to remove the language barrier. This will assist the students in understanding various concepts easily irrespective of the culture they belong to or the language they are fluent in. Audio, gestures and pictorial representations are some of the options that help in overcoming language barriers successfully
In the workplace
- It is essential to use one primary language in the workplace, just like it is used in classrooms. Translate all the relevant documents in that language so that all the work-related records are available to every employee in that common language. This is one of the simplest ways to overcome the language barrier in the workplace.
- The organisation can take steps so that the common language of the workplace can be learnt by the employees who are not so fluent in it. Access to learning will be a blessing in disguise for the workforce as it will felicitate easy and quick communication
- Another way to overcome language barriers is by hiring an interpreter so that it becomes easy to understand and communicate your thought process, especially in the case of feedbacks.
- Use simple words and plain language in the primary or common language so that every employee can easily understand it. Some people try to use complex words to show their superior knowledge, but it will act as a language barrier hence avoid it in a workplace
- A meaningful way to overcome the language barrier in a workplace is by including visual communication methods along with verbal communication. It assists in creating a viable bridge between the employees who are not fluent in the primary language and the organisation which wants its workforce to understand the things it is conveying. Demonstrations and illustrations are essential tools that have proved a boon in explaining things to the employees in an exemplary manner.
- As some of the workforces is not yet fluent in the primary language of the organisation, it becomes imperative to use the method of repetition. Repeat the instructions a few times so that the employees can finally grasp what the other person is trying to convey. Repetition is a meaningful way to overcome the hurdle of the language barrier as it gives the employee enough time to hear, understand and process the words that are spoken to him
- Talk slowly, not loudly – The employees in an organisation want to overcome the language barrier. They are not deaf and dumb, so there is no need to talk loudly as if you are trying to make the words audible to a deaf person. Please do not raise your voice instead speak clearly as it will help the person to understand and interpret its meaning easily.
- Build rapport – An employer or the management needs to build a rapport with the employees. Remember learning a few words and phrases helps to create a viable bond between them. It sends out a positive and encouraging message to all the employees. When the employees see that the management is trying to make an effort to speak their language, they will put extra effort into learning the primary language of the company.
- Start with simple words – Start with the most famous and straightforward words like thank you, please, sorry, hello, good morning, good evening and any other words that you can think of if you are looking for ways to overcome the language barrier in the workplace.
- Keep a check – Keep a vigilant eye on the employees and keep checking whether they are giving their full effort to the task in hand. Ask them to demonstrate their understanding of the new language. Start with greetings and simple questions to know about their new skills.
- Be patient – Rome was not conquered in a day, and learning a new language will take time. Be patient and keep on with your efforts if you are interested in overcoming the language barrier in your workplace
- Be Respectful – Be respectful and treat your employees kindly. Ensure that the people entrusted with teaching the language are respectful towards the employees and are not treating them unkindly. Do not raise your voice or disrespect the workforce who are putting efforts if you are looking for ways to overcome the language barrier in the workplace.
Language shapes the way people perceive the world. It is the basis of forming relationships, creating cultural ties and building economic relationships by effectually developing our personality and mindset.
Language barriers, on the other hand, prevent people from bridging communication gaps and improving collaboration between people as well as organisations on a global scale.
It has become imperative to overcome this obstacle so that the speakers can express their thoughts through meaningful words.