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Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Colleagues speak in a language I don’t understand

Source | www.abhijitbhaduri.com | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist 

Inclusion is hard

I have faced this situation many times. Here is what I suggested.

Language unites but it can also exclude. When we hear someone speaking about us in an unfamiliar language, we suspect that we are being spoken about in unflattering terms. The reality is that the world is far less obsessed with us than we think.

Not being fluent in a language, makes people switch to a language they can express themselves better in. When people want to express emotions, they use the language they “think in”. That is why poetry is often hardest to translate.

Diversity is a business need

Businesses are building diverse talent pools as they operate in new geographies. This brings in people whose language fluency varies. Here are some ideas on how to deal with this situation.

  1. Do not assume your colleagues want to exclude you. They may not be as fluent in English (or whatever is the business language) and simply feel more at ease in their language. Ask them to teach you their language. Many apps can help you learn languages.
  2. It is OK to insist that your colleagues speak in a common language when you are present. In informal settings, using a different language does not contravene any office policy.
  3. Tell your colleagues that you are trying to learn the language. When you hear them speaking, you will join them as a way to improve your language skills.

Learning the new language can be the most powerful way of integrating yourself in the new environment. When you use their language, they will appreciate the effort and you will get included naturally, even if you are not that proficient. Using a “pull method” is always better than throwing the rule-book at your colleagues. Besides, it is not illegal to speak in a different language. You may not be able to control how your colleagues behave, but you can control your response to the situation.

Republished with permission and originally published at abhijitbhaduri.com

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