Communicating Around the World

24 Sep

People communicate in different ways around the world. What may be considered a common gesture in America may be extremely rude in Japan. Speaking in a professional setting can differ greatly from speaking in a casual conversation. I learned this the hard way this past summer through my experiences living and interning in Hangzhou, China. Here are several ideas to consider while communicating in a foreign language.

1. Be confident, even if you’re not.

Speaking with confidence isn’t easy – even in your native language! It is even more important to remember that when you communicate in a foreign one. Chances are you aren’t fluent in your second language. There will be times when your language ability gets ahold of you. Don’t panic. Remember to continue to speak clearly. Use what you know to slowly communicate your ideas. There is no need to use big words! This summer, I ran into many situations where I ended up mumbling in incomprehensible Chinese because I was not confident about what I was going to say.

2. Listen, and then learn.

There are hundreds of different dialects of spoken Chinese in existence. I spoke and understood one. How the language is spoken locally will not be the same as the way you learned it from a textbook. I assure you this. The key is to listen. Get to know the slang and jargon used in casual conversations. Listen to the word choice of your colleagues. Utilize your friends that speak the language fluently. How do they structure their sentences?

3. Don’t be naïve.

Each culture has its own set of accepted standards. You must remember that what may be accepted in your country may not be abroad.  Leave your mind open to new possibilities. Don’t jump to conclusions!

Don’t let communication hinder you from traveling the world; be confident, listen, and approach every situation with an open mind.

by Jeff Lin


3 Responses to “Communicating Around the World”

  1. Gregory Porter September 26, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    Great article, Jeff! I couldn’t agree with you more. I think your example of many different dialects of Chinese also apply to the different versions of English spoken throughout the country. Being confident about what you are going to say and listening to your peers to learn how to say it are both vital to proper communicating — whether speaking your first or second language. I also think confidence and style comes across in writing, and it is important to tone your writing for your specific reader and have confidence without sounding arrogant.

  2. Jonathan Emden September 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    The concept of this post is relevant and timely. Judging by the title, I was expecting to have a comparison of cultural norms and how to adapt based on different scenarios. I was also expecting some discussion of body language and other nonverbal cues that differ accross cultural boundaries.

  3. Adam Solomon October 19, 2011 at 2:48 am #


    I like how you incorporated a real example (experiences interning in China) into your blog instead of just broadly discusses the topic. Also how did you type ” ï ” on keyboard?

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