How to Communicate Effectively with Your Multilingual Development Team

It can be quite frustrating when one cannot locate their favourite item of clothing. On asking their roommates, they may be informed of its usual location, yet which particular closet can still remain unclear. This can lead to spending a significant amount of time trying to pinpoint its exact location. This linguistic barrier between housemates can present a challenge. How can we find a way to overcome it?

As virtual teams become more commonplace due to the pandemic of 2023, it quickly becomes apparent that simply sharing a common language is not enough for effective communication. It may be necessary to restate oneself more than expected. Managers must be aware of the challenges posed by linguistic barriers when working in virtual teams.

Remote, multicultural and geographically dispersed development teams present specific challenges. Developers regularly collaborate with personnel from other disciplines such as Marketing and Sales to address issues that may arise during the development process. Effective communication is paramount for any team, but even more so when working remotely. To bridge any language barriers and ensure that everyone is on the same page, we must take appropriate steps.

When Working Remotely, What Exactly Does the Term “language Barrier” Refer to in the Context of Software Development Teams?

When working in a remote team, communication is typically asynchronous, aside from video conversations. To ensure effective collaboration, it is important to ensure that written communication is clear and well-structured, as misunderstandings and delays can arise from language barriers or poor word choice.

Secondly, the language barrier can impede the documentation of projects and the quality of work produced by remote teams if not all team members have a shared language.

Non-native speakers may take longer to read, write and comprehend materials due to language barriers, which can lead to delays, missed opportunities and interpersonal conflict within a team.

To What Extent Do Language Barriers Exist in Development Teams?

Any group may come across challenges in communication due to language barriers. It has been demonstrated that having a common language or origin is not essential for successful communication.

Rather than concentrating on how to remove the difficulty, it is advisable to focus on reducing language obstacles within your development teams in order to attain better outcomes. It is not the communication struggles of a team member that is of most importance, but rather whether they are using language as an excuse to not work hard.

When collaborating remotely, developers may come from various regions across the globe. Establishing internal team communication can take time, particularly during the initial stages of onboarding. It is therefore important to ensure that all communication is in a neutral language and that jargon and unfamiliar terminology is avoided. Native speakers may struggle to comprehend regional dialects such as Texan and Scottish, for example. It is essential to bear in mind that the colloquialisms used by your team may not be recognised by those in other regions. Using jargon is not always the most effective way to communicate and there is little value in promoting colloquialisms if the marketing team is unaware of the development team’s progress and vice versa.

By bringing the team together and ensuring everyone is aligned, it will be possible to identify those who are genuinely struggling to communicate and those who are using language barriers as an excuse.

Helping Your Development Team Communicate Across Language Gaps

1. Make Available English Instruction and Reference Materials

Improving the fluency of your development staff in English should be the first priority. Enrolling them in an English as a Foreign Language course, or establishing a private tutoring programme for the organisation, could help to achieve this.

The most efficient way to meet the core competencies essential to your business is to offer a course customised to your organisation’s needs. In addition, you could provide further learning opportunities for the team to build on their writing and presentation skills. Utilizing a platform like Grammarly, employees can further develop their grammar and linguistic proficiency outside of the classroom.

It is essential to offer your employees the chance to develop their knowledge and communication skills through formal training. This will encourage your remote workforce and improve internal communication.

2. Orientation and Training

As a global business leader, translating contracts and other legal documents for clients can be a lucrative enterprise. Additionally, translating onboarding materials can provide a clearer understanding of internal processes, particularly for new employees. To get the most from English language instruction, a combination of translated and original materials should be used.

3. Relying on Sight for Understanding

Using visual communication tactics can help to overcome language barriers. Combining text and images, along with interactive design, can help to better illustrate objectives and instructions. Providing additional textual information and processes with visual content will help your team to understand the project and other departments more effectively.

4. Conversational Teamwork Between Native and Non-Native Speakers

Virtual teams can benefit from having the opportunity for informal conversations. Consider mixing native and non-native language speakers to improve communication. For example, Slack provides a feature called Donut which pairs employees randomly. Alternatively, you could set up regular coffee conversations for the staff, allowing them to engage in unstructured discussion. This could be especially beneficial for non-native English speakers, helping to build their confidence and increase their vocabulary.

5. Pace Yourself And Be Understandable

It is important to bear in mind that even native speakers may not be aware of how quickly they are speaking. As such, it is advisable to remind colleagues (and oneself) to speak slowly initially and to avoid using colloquialisms. Additionally, it is beneficial to be mindful of facial expressions and head movements when engaging in dialogue, in order to prevent any potential miscommunication.

6. Don’t Take It for Granted That They Get It

It is important to not make assumptions when communicating with an audience. It is essential to ask questions to ensure that they understand what you are conveying. Whilst this may be intimidating at first, it is important to keep asking questions and demonstrating the processes involved in the project. For example, if a developer is not familiar with remote working, additional training may be required in order to ensure the team’s success. Although this may seem unnecessary in the present moment, it will be beneficial in the long run.

The Role of the Team Leader in Overcoming Communication Gaps

Communicate in an Understandable and Concise Manner

As a team, it is important to set an example when speaking by using a slower cadence. When introducing yourself to new colleagues, it is essential to communicate clearly and use simple language. It is more important to focus on clarity and transparency, rather than technical details. We want to support all members of the team in their language learning journey. However, it is important to remember that language development is an ongoing process, and more complex conversations should be avoided until a later stage.

Comedy Based on Sarcasm and Irony

When engaging in conversations about national teams from other countries, it is important to be aware that jokes and sarcasm can be easily misconstrued. Such interactions can either lead to stronger team bonds or create tension. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of cultural norms and expectations in such situations. It is important to note that not everyone may be comfortable with the humour derived from cultural preconceptions. As such, it is advisable to have a clear policy in place on the use of comedy in the workplace to ensure that it is used to promote a positive business culture. Whilst jokes are encouraged, if someone is offended by one, it must be removed and an apology issued.

Please Forgive Those Who Are Not Fluent in English

Thus, the use of wit is not always appropriate. There are situations where the English of a non-native speaker may be used in an offensive manner. It is important to not take offence to any comments made, as different cultures have different linguistic tones, vocabularies and senses of humour. If someone is using language that is deemed inappropriate, it is best to educate them in how to use it appropriately, in a manner that does not cause offence.

Send a Letter as a Follow-Up

Team meetings and video conferences should be reported on by the team leader. It is generally accepted that reading something increases the likelihood of remembering it. To ensure that your team are able to clearly understand your objectives and goals, send regular, comprehensive updates or emails that are free from spelling and grammar mistakes.

Avoid Miscommunication By Recruiting A Top-Notch Remote Development Team

It is to be expected that communication issues may arise when working with a remote team. Although the situation may seem difficult, it is possible to overcome language barriers that may be present among the development team. In order to do so, it is essential to dedicate the necessary time, energy and resources and to pay attention to the capabilities and sensitivities of team members. In the long run, these linguistic hurdles can be addressed through team building activities, English language tuition and comprehensive record keeping.

Recruiting is an essential factor in the success of any organisation. To avoid communication issues between international teams, it is important to consider engineers who have a proficiency in English. Yet, when making a decision, remember not to limit yourself to a candidate’s technical capabilities and language fluency. Even if a candidate shares the same language as yourself, it does not necessarily mean that you will think in a similar way.

It is essential to identify a candidate who will integrate successfully into your existing team before making any new hires. We are here to assist you in sourcing the most qualified personnel for the project. Our company specializes in finding the best IT professionals from around the world and overcoming any language barriers. Our recruiters will be able to provide you with the ideal remote worker for your needs.

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