Jobs/Work, Life

Language Barriers

I was met with my first language barrier this month,

A man at my job came into my office and asked me a question in very broken English. I had such a hard time understanding him and I could tell he was getting frustrated with my lack of comprehension.  He kept repeating that he wanted to see something but I had no idea what. I work in Human Resources, so it is my job to find information or direct them to where or whom they might find it from.

In this situation, I am unaware of if we have translation services or assistance. So, I mentally made myself a list of things to do to solve this problem:

  1. Stay calm don’t yell – He was already getting angry, but that didn’t mean that I had to as well. Most of the time, accents get thicker when people are angry, which means it will be even more difficult to understand.
  2. Ask him to spell his name- I asked this so that I could look him up in the system and determine what his position was. This way, I can use deductive reasoning for what he might need based on what other people in his position have wanted in the past
  3. Verbally and slowly list out the things he might need- And when I say slowly, I don;t mean patronize him. He is a grown man. I am a grown woman. I don;t need to explain things to him like a child, I just need to slow it down a little.
  4. Once you determine what his is asking, do your best to find it
  5. If the problem is solved, make sure they understand very clearly what the result or answer is. Ask them if they would like you to write it down or if they would like to write it down. DO NOT FORCE THEM TO TAKE OR WRITE A NOTE.
  6. If all else fails, take a note for someone else who might be able to help him later.

Lucky for me, I was able to help him but it really made me realize how un-trained you can be in this situation, not that I am not sufficiently trained in my job, just that language barriers happen and there is never really a set solution other than a translator. School didn’t teach me this either.

Should it be part of a lesson plan for business communication classes?


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