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May 06, 2006
Tips to Overcome Language Barriers

Depending on the make-up of your workforce, front-line supervisors may face language barriers when coaching workers or providing hands-on training. Here are some tips you can pass along to help them overcome those barriers.

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First, speak slowly, explain fully, and repeat important points several times. Using simple words and avoiding technical jargon will also help with comprehension, as will the use of pictures, diagrams, and other visual aids.

Don’t assume that workers understand written materials, such as forms, signs, and written directions. Consider using handouts in the workers’ primary language.

In order to determine whether workers understand what’s been conveyed during training, ask workers to demonstrate the skills they’ve been taught.

Follow up after training to assess whether workers properly applied what they learned in training.

Finally, consider taking a language course. For example, a Spanish class will not only help supervisors communicate better with Spanish-speaking employees, it will also give supervisors an appreciation for the difficulty those employees may have in understanding English-speaking employees in the workplace.

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