Practical ways to Not, be a English language chauvinist

 In Message creation

A number of years ago I conducted a presentation entitled, Successful Cross-cultural listening and speaking. abuse and bully business man , boss and subordinate

Below are key points from the presentation.

Don’t be a language chauvinist.

For native English speakers, avoid a feeling of English language supremacy.

When interacting with a person of different cultural and/or language background,

  • Concentrate on what the person is saying, not on how they’re saying it.
  • Ask yourself, ‘Is this person too polite or embarrassed to ask questions?’
  • Don’t pretend to understand someone, when you don’t.
  • All you can initially know about a person who has an accent, is that the person speaks English differently than you.
  • Withhold negative judgement. Ask and be genuinely curious about the person’s culture and native country.
  • Avoid making the person feel ignorant about any grammar, syntax, accent or speech errors.
  • Pay attention to face and body language to gauge a person’s understanding. If you are unsure of person’s understanding of English, at first, reduce your use of metaphors, idioms and other non-literal language.
  • Avoid rushing an interaction.
  • DBAE* (Don’t Be Anywhere Else) when listening.

Let me relay a story about how one of my non-English speaking clients was made to feel ignorant.

On the footpath in the central business district of Sydney, a stranger approached my client and asked him for help. Upon hearing my client’s accent the stranger pointed to his watch, and in an exaggerated manner combined with a slow, loud, patronising voice said, ‘Do – You – Have – The – Time?’

Then while pointing repeatedly to his ear, the stranger said, ‘Do – You – Understand – Me?’

Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post. Review the above points. In the next seven days, consider how you might purposely apply one of them.

p.s. Here is a post that describes DBAE*. Field reports from my clients over the past 20+ years – reveal DBAE as the the most memorable, and most frequently applied technique.


This is my last post for 2016. Thank you to my regular readers, sometime readers and new readers. Posts will resume in February 2017.

The passage below – which is taken from Robert Kennedy’s speech to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 – has always touched me. I thought I’d share it.

‘Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice; she or he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

And crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest of walls of oppression and resistance.

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet is the one essential quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.’

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Behind the Voice

Regular insights, guidance and commentary on how communication influences business and the world around us

Thank you for subscribing