June 2014
Directly Speaking

"I didn't understand a word he said."  "I had to replay her voicemail message four times to get her extension, department, and name in order to return the call." "We don't have a bilingual supervisor...how can we communicate with our Spanish-speaking employees?" "She's a good accountant but her supervisor and our clients have trouble understanding her."


The diversity in today's work environment offers many challenges to a company or institution with a multicultural workforce.   Verbal communication with workers whose primary language is other than English can be daunting to both sides.  Many highly-skilled and valuable employees have difficulty with the pronunciation of American English.  There are sounds in our language that do not exist in other languages.  Speakers can sound unintelligible to customers, supervisors, or co-workers because they are not able to produce sounds in English or stress the wrong syllable.  Idioms, expressions, and acronyms that we use on a daily basis are often not understood by a foreign-born employee.  Their mastery of English verb tenses is often incomplete.  Timetables and deadlines can be impacted.  Native speakers of English in the workforce can therefore have great difficulty decoding the pronunciation, syllable stress, and cadence of the "English" spoken by their foreign-born co-workers and contractors.  Result?  Errors in production, patient care, order fulfillment, etc...often causing higher costs and damage to profitability.


Fortunately, there are practical solutions to these challenges. Training can build communication bridges that enable foreign-born employees to rise to their full potential.  Verbal communication can be improved 50-60% in a short time with a targeted, systematic approach.   


Other communication obstacles occur when supervisors and workers do not speak the same language at all.  Essential safety and procedural information can become difficult or impossible to transmit to the non-English-speaking worker.  Written translations are helpful, but not always successful.  Many employees from less developed countries have little reading knowledge of their own language.


Supervisors do not need to "learn Spanish", but to learn to communicate directly with people who speak Spanish.  Using a co-worker to interpret between supervisor and employee can compromise privacy issues.   In the absence of qualified bilingual supervisors, successful bridges can be built with short, industry-specific training.   Internal employees and customers can learn to communicate directly and effectively with Spanish speakers in as few as 20 training hours.   Alternatively, essential safety, compliance, or management skills training can be delivered in the language of the worker to assure complete understanding and minimized risk.


New Jersey companies or institutions in need of this specialized training may be eligible to participate in programs funded by NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development at no out-of-pocket cost.  There are also special initiatives for certain industries, such as bio-technology/pharmaceutical, finance, information technology, and hospitality/tourism.

 Contact us to learn more.  



We are always looking for qualified instructors 
who are bilingual in English any other languages,
or who can teach ESL.
If you are interested, send your resume here.
Thank you for your time and interest!

Sharlene Vichness, President
and the rest of the Language Directions Team
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We are delighted to bring the June 2014 issue of DIRECTLY SPEAKING 
to your inbox. In this issue, we offer up some strategies you can use to push past language and cultural challenges at work. We will continue to post little tips to improve rapport, understanding, and efficiency, both at work and in any interpersonal communication with folks of a different culture.
Brazilian Expressions
In honor of the World Cup, here are some Brazilian expressions!

Descascar o Abacaxi 
"Peel the Pineapple"
Actual Meaning: 
To Solve A Problem.

Viajar na Maionese 
"To travel in the mayonnaise"
To Say Something Crazy

Deitar o Cabelo 
"To Lay Down Your hair"
To Move Fast

Rei na Barriga 
"King in the Belly"
To be Arrogant and Full of Oneself
Fast Fact 
Nine languages don't have words for color - they only differentiate between black and white. For example in Dan (New Guinea) things can be 'mili' (darkish) or 'mola' (lightish).
Tongue Twister
Swan swam over the sea.
Swim, swan, swim!
Swan swam back again.
Well swum swan!

 Language Directions, 188 Eagle Rock Ave, Roseland, NJ 07068, (973) 228-8848

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