How to Overcome Language Barriers in the Workplace in Just Four Steps

Language barriers can’t be avoided in a world where people journey from one place to another looking for greener pastures. However, we all know that occupational health and safety management systems and materials are written and carried out in English, which is the universal business language. Your foreign workers also need English skills to communicate with other staff members and customers on a daily basis. You too can become a pioneer in your industry and be perceived as a better corporate citizen and as a caring employer when you follow the strategies to eliminate language barriers below.

Step 1: Retain the Services of a Professional Translator

You will need to have a professional translation of your manuals and other employment literature done if you frequently hire migrant workers. This is especially needed for the orientation process, where new workers will need to become familiar with your procedures, especially safety regulations. Since it’s likely that the translator will also be translating HR forms and other sensitive documents, ensure that all parties sign a confidentiality agreement.

Step 2: Partner with Bilingual Resources Group to Offer an English as a Second Language Class

This is especially useful if you have a number of workers that need to learn English. All it takes is for you to provide a safe environment for learning – in some cases the State of Louisiana will even reimburse the cost of providing the training. Until your workers become proficient in English, encourage your managers and supervisors to be patient: your employee may already be self-conscious or may have a feeling of inadequacy because of his or her inability to express himself or herself clearly or completely.

Step 3: Encourage Managers and Supervisors to Become Bilingual

Managers can learn to converse directly with Spanish-speakers in as few as twenty training hours. Language skills instruction from the experts at Bilingual Resources Center can build communication bridges that enable foreign-born employees to rise to their full potential. This targeted training benefits not only foreign employees, but also customers who may have limited or absent English skills.

Step 4: Maintain an Open Environment Conducive to Learning

Even after your foreign workers take English classes and your supervisors and managers have become bilingual, there will still be some barriers, especially when it comes to idioms and nuances of the language. A good solution is to provide an environment in which workers will feel comfortable asking questions if they do not understand you. After all, wouldn’t you like to know about the workers’ lack of understanding right away, instead of waiting until an error has been made?

Always remember that your foreign workers need your support. These are hard workers, and you can help bring out their full potential by making the commitment to bridge the communications gap.


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