How working abroad taught us to communicate back home

If you get the chance to work abroad, seize it with both hands.

Apart from the amazing experiences that travelling and working in new places will bring, the change you’ll need to make to your own communication process is great training for when you get home. Most of 652South’s work today is with non-native English speakers and our lead consultant worked from offices in Amsterdam and Paris for many years, so we’re well qualified to comment.

We found that collaborating in a foreign language or with non-native speakers (even when their English is excellent) forces you to think carefully about what you want to say. We all use verbal shortcuts and local context that are easy for even the best linguists to miss unless they grew up in the same country. Therefore the best results come when you choose the most direct way to describe things and avoid speaking too broadly or for too long. Graphics and visual aids can help avoid long explanations while shorter, punchier sentences always work best. The simpler you can make your message, the more likely it is to be fully understood.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. These are the exact core skills you need to communicate successfully in your own language too. If you’re doing it online the imperative  is even greater to get your point across simply.

Remember too that simplifying your message is not the same as dumbing things down. The only disadvantage your foreign colleagues have is language and so it’s your responsibility to make yourself understood.

Again, it’s the same back home – just speak plainly, illustrate intelligently and always be concise.

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