Breaking down the communication barrier

Distance is a given concern when it comes to an offshore partnership. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction when it comes to the exchange of ideas right? However, thanks to modern technology – the likes of cloud computing, telecommunication and video conferencing, distance is no longer the hurdle it once was.

With the barrier of distance out of the way, it’s time to talk about the next common concern raised “communication”. In the outsourcing industry, English is the primary language no matter where in the world you are. English is the official language in most outsourcing buyer countries like the US, Australia, Canada and more, which is why being fluent and comprehensive with the English language is a must in offshoring teams.

Value in language differences

Both British and American English are widely used in the industry. Obviously the main differences – vocabulary styles, alternative spellings, collective nouns, auxiliary verbs, pronunciation and a few more. Sounds like a challenge and it can be, but something offshore teams quickly become familiar with and as a general rule are individuals that are already bilingual so have the ability to adapt easily within new language.

So here’s an example… When you’re asking an Aussie if you can give him a call later tonight and he answers with, “I can’t, I’ll be pretty busy with the barbie.” If you’re not familiar with Aussie slang, you might assume he’s talking about playing with dolls. But “Barbie” in the land down under is actually short for barbecue.

It sounds simple but it’s important to be aware of these differences to make sure you’re sending and receiving the right message. And keep an eye on those spelling differences, they’ll trip you up all over the show.

Communication and culture

Culture plays a big part in communication. There is etiquette to be aware of particularly when you’re speaking to someone new from another country. So you’re talking to an American and you decide to pull out the phrase “Yankee” to describe him. You might assume the word is harmless with all the Western media you’ve seen and your familiarity with the New York Yankees. But “Yankee” is often used as an insult towards Americans by people out of the US. Having potentially offended you might be hung up or worse. We’ll leave that to your imagination…

Another good example, let’s go to New Zealand. People from New Zealand are widely referred to as “Kiwis” and you might think fruit, right..? Yes and no. In New Zealand, the Kiwi is a native, flightless bird and you could assume the term is offensive because of bird’s inability to fly. But “Kiwi” is in fact a term of endearment and respect in New Zealand. Kiwi is a symbol of pride to New Zealand’ers.

There are other factors to consider and not just the language itself, it’s important to develop general and specific cultural skills.

Sending the message

Knowing, writing and speaking the language is not enough. Communication in outsourcing is more than just exchanging ideas and information. It is about building relationships with international businesses, teams and people – we’re all human.

Poor communication skills can and will eventually result in inefficiency, increased mistakes, minimal productivity and other negative factors.

With the distance and communication barriers recognised and overcome, you’ve established an offshore connection, getting the message right. What’s next? Building people and businesses together, that’s what!

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