Communicating with NESB people

What are you trying to say?

Communication always has a purpose. Language is used to express our emotions and attitudes, to give our ideas and opinions, to complain, to gain acceptance or approval, to get information, to entertain, to build relationships, to give advice, to fill in time, to instruct, to ask for help ─ the list goes on.

All humanity uses this communication function for this fundamental purpose. We are all tribal and use our language amongst our tribe and other tribes who can understand us.

In working with CALD clients and co-workers you may need to use a range of specific strategies to support communication and resolve verbal communication problems.

Strategies to support verbal communication

  • Do not make assumptions about a person’s language proficiency.  There is great variation in English proficiency within the migrant population.
  • Active listening will help you detect the person’s speaking style and clarify the meaning or issues associated with accents.
  • Always seek clarification for statements made by CALD consumers or co-workers that seem irrelevant or unclear.
  • Be aware of people who may transfer communication routines from their first language to English. This may cause confusion.
  • Be sensitive about the effects of cultural differences on communication patterns, meaning of words and concepts. People’s messages may be destroyed when they transfer the idea from one to another.
  • Workers should not over-emphasise the language barrier; treat it in the same way as all other communication barriers.
  • Speaking in a loud tone or slowly pacing your speech will not help your clients understand English better. Often, it will result in a negative effect or interpretation.

(Modified Pauwels 1995)

Last modified: Thursday, 3 November 2016, 1:56 PM