Working in an international team: Do we all understand the same thing?

Working in an international team: Do we all understand the same thing?

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The language learning method used by Language Institute Regina Coeli ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. The institute's highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation, so you can immediately start communicating in your new language.

If you work in an international team, you have probably noticed how varied your colleagues’ English and / or Dutch can be. That might have to do with their actual language skills, but it can also have something to do with the fact that they learnt the language from the perspective of another language and culture. That determines not only their accent but also the thoughts and feeling associated with words.

If a group is international in its composition, even when everyone hears the exact same sentence, they might have a different understanding of what has been said. Those situations can even prove tricky for native speakers because, for them, the meaning of words is such a given.

This means that it is important to never assume everyone in an international team understands things in the same way. You will need to check whether you have understood others correctly, and the other way around as well. In other words, be careful in your communication.

Communication tips

Here are a few tips for communicating in an international team:

  • Speak slowly and clearly, so you are understandable.
  • Make use of simple language. Use short sentences and avoid using jargon.
  • Avoid the use of idiom and expressions - they can end up being taken literally, leading to a fair amount of confusion. Bear in mind that humour is largely culturally determined.
  • If something is unclear, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. For example:
English Dutch
Sorry, I missed that, could you say it again, please? Sorry, dat heb ik niet goed verstaan. Wat zei je?
Would you mind repeating that? Kun je dat nog eens herhalen?
I’m sorry but I don’t understand what you mean. Sorry, maar ik begrijp niet wat je bedoelt.
What do you mean by …? Wat bedoel je met…?
Could you explain it in another way? Kun je het eens op een andere manier uitleggen?

Or clear things up yourself:

English Dutch
No, sorry, that’s not what I meant. Nee, dat is niet wat ik bedoelde.
Maybe I didn’t explain very well / clearly. Misschien was ik niet duidelijk genoeg.
Let me explain in another way. Ik zal het anders proberen uit te leggen.
  • Summarise and ask your counterparts whether your summary is an accurate one.
  • Use multiple methods to communicate in a team: speak face-to-face, send confirmations by email or send information in advance. This way, you increase the chances that even if a message is not fully understood the first time, it comes across clearly in the end.

Improving team communication

If you lead an international team, you know that good communication between team members is essential. It forms the basis of effective collaboration. You can try to make clear agreements about this, but you will often achieve the best results by improving everyone’s skill levels.

Regina Coeli would be happy to take a closer look at your team’s situation and advise you on how they can improve your team’s English or Dutch communication skills. Please feel free to contact them!



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