How do you make sure that your foreign audience understands you?
March 6, 2012 Leave a comment
If you happen to be a speaker occasionally or frequently addressing a foreign crowd, you might find these tips useful. These 7 tips below are originally by Leon Potgieter who wrote a post about it on Olivia Mitchell’s blog. All these tips are practical and easy-to-implement. By doing them you’ll find that inevitable cross-cultural misunderstandings will be minimized, if not totally prevented, and you, as a speaker, will become more appealing to a foreign crowd.
1. Understand cultural assumptions – yours and theirs
You don’t have to know all the details, just a knowledge of the overview would be fine. You can attend an International Business Etiquette course or you can do your research on the internet. ExecutivePlanet.com is a a helpful Wiki-style online encyclopedia providing culture tips for almost 50 countries.
2. Use humor wisely
Humor is good but you have to make sure your sense of humor is on the same wavelength as your foreign audience. Test it first to a small crowd of similar foreign background and see if they will find your joke or anecdotes funny.
3. Work with your interpreter
It would be best if you meet with your interpreter weeks before your big speech just so everything will also flow smoothly on her end when translating your speech especially for certain words and phrases that naturally don’t have exact translations to the native language of your audience.
4. Skip the gobbledygook, completely
Avoid using jargons like the plague! Always use the simplest words possible.
5. Speak to 12 year olds
Just like tip #4, the simpler the English words and phrases used, the better. If a twelve year old can’t understand it, then simplify it. Wikipedia’s Simple English Pages is an excellent tool that will help you look for ideas on writing for non-English speakers.
6. Watch out for language nuances
Know whether your audience is the type that favors direct approach or are they the type who likes things explained rather subtly than aggressively. Some cultures appreciate a no-nonsense type of conversation while others like it more if people are not so blunt with what they are trying to convey. Watch out for these nuances.
7. Use local terminology
Do this when you are sure that you got the pronunciation right. Practice with a local and ask for help if you are having a hard time pronouncing certain local terms. Also, make sure that the terms you use are meaningful to your audience. For instance, in countries where there is no such thing at 12th graders or 8th graders, don’t use those terms. And if you want to greet your audience in their local dialect, make sure you enunciate your words properly.
For more information on these 7 excellent tips, head to: