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Overcoming Language Barriers in the Workplace as a Zambian Expat

03 Jan 2024

You may encounter several difficulties at work as a Zambian expat working abroad, and one of those difficulties may be a language barrier when they send money online to Zambia. Language issues can make it difficult for you to communicate with your coworkers and lead to misunderstandings, which can limit productivity and even cause you to feel isolated. But, there are ways to get beyond language difficulties at work and enhance your satisfaction and enjoyment of living abroad. In this post, you will look at several strategies for helping a Zambian expat get through language hurdles at work.

Recognize the Local Tongue

Learning the native tongue is one of the best strategies to get beyond language hurdles at work. Even if your coworkers are English speakers, learning the native tongue demonstrates that you are trying to interact and fit in with the community. Also, it enables you to pick up on cultural cues and context that you would miss when speaking in a second language.

You can hire a language tutor, sign up for language lessons, or use language learning software. Also, speaking with your coworkers and getting their input will help you develop your language abilities.

Request Further Information

Cross-cultural communication frequently results in misunderstandings; therefore, it's crucial to make things clear to prevent them. Ask for clarification if necessary if you have any questions. Asking for an explanation can help your coworkers modify their communication style to fit your needs better because they might not be aware that their language or communication style is creating misunderstanding.

Use Visual Tools

By giving a visual picture of what you're attempting to say, visual aids can help people who struggle to communicate in a foreign language. For instance, if you're talking about a product, displaying your colleague's images or videos of the product can assist them in grasping what you're saying.

Even if you don't speak the same language, using gestures and facial expressions can still help you transmit meaning and feelings.

Employ Technology

In the workplace, technology can be a useful tool for overcoming linguistic obstacles. Apps and software for translation can assist in translating oral and written communication, making it simpler for people to understand one another. There are some amazing Apps that contain translations like ACE Money Transfer has different language settings for people doing online money transfers to Zambia. Also, you can see body language and facial emotions with video conferencing programs like Zoom or Skype, which can improve communication even if you don't speak the same language.

Develop Relationships

By fostering trust and understanding with your coworkers, you may get across linguistic hurdles. Take the initiative to socialize with your coworkers and establish a personal connection, perhaps through sharing meals or attending events. This can improve the working environment and boost the willingness of your coworkers to speak with you.

How to Minimize Language Issues an Expat 

As an expat, you can use the following strategies to get around some language barriers:

Track Down a Trustworthy Translation Agency

The language you hear and read in your new nation can be easier to understand thanks to cell phones and apps. Text can be translated in real-time using programs like Google Translate. Even translating objects like menus, signage, and paper documents is possible with the camera.

Remember that not all jargon or slang words translate properly, such as many Swiss-German expressions. Programs like DeepL are great for understanding context and idioms within languages and cultures, which can greatly improve how well expats fit into casual discussions. Engaging with the language you encounter every day—on signs, in railway advertisements, and little snippets of conversation—can help you learn. You'll soon start expanding your vocabulary if you look up everything you don't understand

To Convey Your Message, Use Body Language or Visual Cues

In every type of interaction, body language is really important. If you and your discussion partner don't speak the same language, this is especially true. Body language may communicate the message you're trying to send, and seeing other people's body language can also help you decipher what they're attempting to say.

Present a pleasant smile or nod to show recognition while meeting someone new or in a positive circumstance. Also, using a visual medium like a picture or video might help you better communicate your point to the other individual, especially in public settings like cafes, restaurants, and grocery shops.

Make Local Language-Speaking Acquaintances

Making friends with some local Swiss people is a useful strategy to get around language obstacles and practice learning the new language. If you feel at ease around your new friends, you can inquire with them about particular expressions, cultural customs, idioms, or well-known slang words in their native tongue.

Even if socializing in person is preferred, it could be practical to join a Facebook group or online forum for expats where you can ask other people about common language barrier issues you encounter. It will be excellent to develop acquaintances in that environment if you are in your new country for work or study so they can understand the issue better.

Record Your Thoughts For Further Use

Many of the interactions you have in daily life wind up being repeated. You will frequently utilize words like "hello," "thank you," "goodbye," and "names of foods or drinks," to name a few. When you come across one of these, write it down on your phone or in a notebook along with the details of the circumstance to assist you in remembering it in the future.

Also, you can look up common sayings and phrases in advance on Google and save them to your phone or notebook to practice them whenever you have time or if the occasion demands it. You may even construct a list of URLs to videos, TikTok, or Instagram posts that use idioms.

Show Patience And Deference

Finally, use patience and respect. It is no easy task to relocate to a new nation with a different language and culture; there are numerous difficulties involved. Even though it could seem overwhelming, know that it is a necessary step and does not diminish your abilities. Keep a record of everything that happens, but always remember to have patience with both yourself and other people, especially when dealing with difficult people.

Keep in mind that every culture has distinctive norms that might not correspond to those you are accustomed to at home. Try to observe how the natives act and take note of what is and is not appropriate. You can prepare yourself for your move by learning about the cultural customs of your new nation before you go.

Encourage Staff To Treat Others With Respect

Linguistic hurdles can frequently be annoying. These may occasionally even result in disputes between the parties. Although this is unavoidable in a multilingual setting, tell your staff to exercise the utmost decency.

Stop making fun of someone's ability to speak a different language right away. This may lead to strained working relationships and discourage the individual from honing their skills further. Your surroundings should be as encouraging as they can be.

Repetition is Key

Remembering things requires repetition. Even people who have heard something in their mother tongue only once can not always remember what you say. It may be even more difficult for it to "stick" if you're communicating with folks in another language.

Although repeating yourself is tiresome to your coworkers, there are times when it is vital to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Motivate Staff To Experience Diverse Cultures

A multilingual setting is an excellent place to start because language is an integral aspect of culture. Encourage workers to study vocabulary and idioms in the foreign tongue and to research regional cuisines and customs. You might also lead discussions on a variety of subjects, such as how various civilizations celebrate various occasions.

This might provide an opportunity for both professional and personal growth for your staff members. A great method to learn more about the world is to get to know people from different nations and cultures. Even your staff members might enjoy it.

Observe Your Body Language

American speakers may have very different ideas about whether gestures are improper than speakers from other cultures. For instance, gestures are typical in the United States yet considered extremely disrespectful in Japan.

Be aware of the gestures before you join the workplace. Teach this to your staff members as well. Many of you use your hands without thinking, but this can cause major hurt feelings and rage.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, it takes work, perseverance, and an open mind to get through language difficulties in the workplace as a Zambian expat.  If everyone is informed about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, there will probably be more laughs than presumptions that the other person was intentionally trying to be nasty. However, from asking help to send online money to Zambia to asking the address of your nearby places as an expat, you need to tackle the language barrier first.


How can I overcome language barriers when communicating with colleagues and supervisors in my workplace as a Zambian expat?

To overcome language barriers, you can improve your language skills through language courses or self-study, seek clarification when you don't understand, use visual aids and gestures to enhance understanding and engage in active listening to better comprehend others.

What can I do to ensure effective communication when working in a multicultural environment where English may not be the first language for everyone?

In a multicultural workplace, focus on clear and concise communication, avoid jargon or slang, encourage open communication, and use translation and interpretation services when necessary to bridge language gaps.

How can I build rapport and relationships with colleagues who speak different languages in my workplace as a Zambian expat?

Building relationships with colleagues from diverse linguistic backgrounds involves being approachable, showing interest in their cultures and languages, and making an effort to learn basic greetings and phrases in their languages. Shared experiences and teamwork can also foster positive relationships.

What resources or tools are available to help me improve my language skills in a work setting as a Zambian expat?

Many workplaces offer language training programs or courses. Additionally, online language-learning platforms, language exchange with colleagues, and language-learning apps can be valuable resources to enhance your language skills in a work context.

How can I contribute positively to a multilingual work environment as a Zambian expat, and what benefits can come from embracing linguistic diversity?

You can contribute positively by valuing linguistic diversity, promoting a culture of inclusivity, and fostering cross-cultural understanding. Embracing linguistic diversity can lead to improved teamwork, creativity, and a more inclusive work environment that benefits both individuals and the organization as a whole.

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