Language and cultural barriers are familiar ground to me. As a Korean who grew up in England and then moved to the US, I’ve encountered plenty of challenges in cultural and language translation. But today I’m becoming less and less of an anomaly. Minorities will make up more than 50% of the United States population by 2020. As cultures merge and different languages interweave through the fabric of our society, it’s critical to understand the daily implications of cultural and linguistic differences in the workplace.
My own experiences as an immigrant motivated me to launch an education non-profit, a multilingual family engagement platform that connects teachers and families, regardless of language or socioeconomic barriers. Beyond the literal translation involved in my work, I’m also tasked with translating across different functions and contexts. This means recognizing cultural cues and tailoring communications based on the beneficiaries the organization serves.
Through my career and personal experiences, I’ve identified three key ways to build unified communication in the workplace.
Find a Common Internal Language.
In running a non-profit that generates social impact through technology, I’ve learned to embrace multiple office “languages.” It’s essential to ensure communication is fluid throughout the organization so everyone can seamlessly work towards the same vision. It’s your job as the leader to define company-wide terminology. Can product speak to fundraising, and can engineering speak to marketing? The answer should be yes, regardless of function-specific language that an individual may be used to.
At my organization we make sure the way we speak is not just internal lingo-speak, but also mirrors the way our beneficiaries and customers think and communicate.