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November 12, 2015

Anyone Anywhere Will Understand Your English Using These Tips

Speaking English in a global business environment demands a neutral language which can be understood by a wide range of speakers from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Whether you are an American English speaker speaking to English speaking Australians, an English speaking Canadian speaking to English speaking Indians, or using English with anyone who is a native or a second language speaker, these tips will help you be understood better by a wider range of people.
  1. Slow down.
    But don't sound like a robot!
  2. Use basic vocabulary and keep it simple.  
    Stay away from idioms and slang that are not understood outside of your region or country. Avoid too many corporate jargon or acronyms. Also, take note that some seemingly international idioms or phrases may have different meanings in different countries.
  3. Listen actively.
    Don't only listen with your ears! Use your eyes to listen to your conversational partners or audience, not just your ears. How are they reacting to you? Do you think they are understanding you? Adjust if you are speaking too fast or too slow, or using obscure phrases or complex vocabulary.
  4. Repeat, rephrase or illustrate using examples.
    Repeating word for word may offend those who can understand your accent. Maybe they do not use English in the same way, they may require a rephrasing of what you said to understand you better.
  5. Be careful with telling jokes.
    Jokes do not always translate well between cultures or even subcultures in the same country. Jokes may not be understood the same way outside of your corporate culture or professional network. Keep this in mind when trying to lighten the mood.
  6. Expect a delayed reaction.
    Sometimes due to different uses of English or a lack of understanding your version of English, your listeners may take a bit of time to process and respond. Be patient. They may be translating in their mind or trying to compare your words to how they say the same thing in English.
  7. Use visual aids.
    Whenever it's possible, use visual or tactile aids to explain points. This may take pressure off listeners to listen, but instead interact with the content. 
  8. Whenever possible, use local examples.
    Bands and celebrities do this very well. When they greet their audience, they say "Hi + city name of the city they are in." Do not use irrelevant stories to the national, corporate or local culture. This may take some research. presenting irrelevant stories or examples will disconnect your audience. They will no longer relate to you, and may lose interest in listening to you. This is especially true if you are speaking to English as Second Language speakers who may be trying to understand your accent and at the same time trying to comprehend an irrelevant story.
Applying these tips will help you speak "transcultural English." Any language can become "transcultural" by applying any of the above tips. For instance, I have coached Malayalam and Hindi speakers on these very same tips, which they have applied to speaking Malayalam and/or Hindi to speakers from various regions of India or the world. They reported back to me that once they applied these tips to their Hindi or Malayalam presentations in different parts of India, they were able to engage their audience with more ease and even get more clients and more sales!  

Many of the tips in this article are based on advice given in the book Transactional Leadership by Carmen Vazquez (Author), George F Simons (Author), Philip R Harris (Author). Check it out on Amazon.

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post has coached and trained over 2,000 international business professionals to work with more efficiency across global boundaries. Contact us for more details on how we can help you! 

Related Posts:
Difference between Slang, Buzzwords, Corporate and Industry Jargon  
Examples of English Idioms Particular to India  

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.