How to Effectively Train in Spite of Language and Cultural Differences

Written by Jo Dakin

In the early 1970s, Canada was one of the first countries in the world to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism. This forward thinking and inclusive political stance means that today, Canada employs one of the most diverse workforces found anywhere in the world. While this allows for a vibrant culture both inside and outside of the workplace, it also means there are certain challenges to overcome in industrial training situations. This is largely attributable to language and cultural differences.

For those operating in the food and beverage production sector, it is sometimes easy to overlook the necessity to tailor training programs that cater to all cultural and language backgrounds. Taking a pro-active approach to modifying existing methods can ensure successful training for employees across any demographic.

Techniques to Overcome Cultural and Language Barriers

Even when employees have a basic command of the English language, training facilitators should not overlook the fact that the actual delivery of training is a key determining factor to the success of a program. Miscommunication and misunderstanding is a risk when training is hastily delivered, or facilitated by those who are unfamiliar with the cultural and ethnic diversities that they are training. Communication needs to be clear, slow, and concise, without excessive use of jargon or culturally specific idioms.

In industries involved in production, there may be certain technical language that is unavoidable. This makes it important to employ a policy of regular clarification to ensure a mutual understanding. Employees who speak English as a second language may become introverted when they are confused, so facilitators must be aware of this, and take command of two way communication. They must continually seek confirmation and test knowledge to ensure that instructions and teachings are mutually understood.

Visual aids will greatly increase the effectiveness of training presentations and on the job training. Accents, and even localized dialects can form barriers even when a common language is present. The use of visual aids will provide clarification of the topics discussed, without the barrier of culture or language. In the case of machinery operation or manual processes, visual instructions are an unambiguous aid that leave little to interpretation.

The most important thing however when training a culturally or language diverse group, is that facilitators recognize and understand communication barriers and can adapt their delivery style to their audience. With an understanding of these barriers and a robust training plan, businesses can ensure that any employee induction, on the job training, or upskilling initiative is successful, regardless of the cultures, ethnicities, and languages of the employees taking part.

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