By Renae Sanders
As the diversity of our society continues to increase so will multi-cultural business opportunities. Communication across culture will be a critical competency for all parties. However, we still have much to learn about overcoming the multi-cultural communication barrier.
In many cultures, especially those with multiple dialects or even multiple languages spoken in a given region, English is the standard language of business. In the U.S., however, not only is English considered the standard, it is often seen as rude for bi-lingual or multi-lingual speakers to speak in their native languages in the presence of mono-linguists. One of the challenges in cross cultural conversation is the meaning placed on the differences.
In the U.S., whether it’s a language barrier or a regional accent, how you sound signals perceptions of credibility, intelligence, and lifestyle. If your English is difficult to understand or you have a strong regional dialect it can affect the impression you make on others regardless of your Ivy League education, designer suit, or super, savvy portfolio. What you say and how you say it is as important to your success as the experience you bring to the table.
The important thing to remember, irrespective of our beliefs, we cannot assess intelligence based on how someone sounds. Like a runner builds endurance to run a marathon, so can the basic skills of articulation be learned and mastered. Have you ever wondered how a British or Australian actor sounds “American” in movies? It’s training.
Learning how to balance sound so has not to elongate vowels (as we do in the South); over accentuate consonants (a common practice of Northerners); or learning the difference in how sounds are created between your primary language and English will go a long way toward improving inter-cultural and cross-cultural communication glitches.
Here are a few things to focus on to communicate your message clearly and confidently: Relax, inhale and speak on the exhale, not after the exhale. Emphasize key words, such as the company name and your name (first and last). Use inflection to create interest and a lower pitch to create confidence and authority. Communication is like a dance, the first person to speak controls the pace and feel of the dance.
Originally printed in October 2009 issue of Working Charlotte Magazine.