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NDTO News Article

Consider it Culture: Avoiding Jargon for Effective Communication

In today’s globalized world, the workplace is becoming increasingly diverse. As businesses expand and intercultural collaboration becomes the norm, the ability to work effectively with non-English speakers has never been more critical. One of the primary obstacles in these interactions is the use of jargon. This article explores the importance of avoiding jargon when working with non-English speakers, emphasizing the need for clear, inclusive communication that transcends language and cultural barriers.The series Consider it Culture is meant to provide added insights into different topics when doing business internationally, often overlooked practices, including business card etiquette, punctuality, and even handshakes. This month, jargon and specific language we use may not be as commonplace as we think, and is something to keep in mind when working with non-English speaking counterparts.Jargon, often defined as specialized vocabulary or expressions used within a particular profession or group, is widespread in many industries. While it can facilitate efficient communication among experts, it becomes a significant barrier when communicating with non-English speakers. There are a variety of challenges associated with jargon when doing business internationally.Misinterpretation by using jargon is high. Jargon can cause confusion with unfamiliar or non-translatable words. English is also flush with idioms, slang, and nuanced vocabulary that can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand fully. There is also a higher chance of alienating non-English speakers, making them feel like outsiders, or undermining confidence. It can lead to errors and misaligned expectations, potentially causing harm to projects or relationships. None of these examples are what you want when building good business relationships.What is jargon and how do you know you are using it? There might be some specific terms, phrases or even acronyms in your industry that you think are universal, and they may be in your country in your industry, but we all know doing business internationally adds another layer and skill set to your activities. Any technical terms that may be very specific, refer to a process, acronyms, or unusual pairings are considered jargon. Each industry has them, and here are just a few examples from some of the top industries in North Dakota. 

It is not inherently bad or not advised to use these terms, in fact, they can be quite effective, butay close attention to your business partner when using these terms. You may notice confused looks, clarifying questions, and uncertainty, which are good indicators that there may be some unfamiliar jargon in the message you are trying to relay.

How do we bridge that gap?

To foster effective communication with non-English speakers and create an inclusive and productive conversation, be sure to avoid the jargon. Instead, try some of these tips:

  • Make a conscious effort to avoid it. If it’s unavoidable, be sure to take the time to explain the terms or acronyms you use.
  • Speak plainly, use simple language to ensure your message is easily understood. Avoid overly complex sentence structures or vocabulary. This does not mean that anything is “dumbed down” it is adjusted to fit the language needs.
  • Pay close attention to non-English speakers when they communicate and be sure to ask clarifying questions and provide feedback to ensure mutual understanding.
  • Utilize visuals, diagrams, or gestures when appropriate to complement your verbal communication, making it more accessible.
  • Employ interpreters and translators, or use translation tools and applications to facilitate quick and accurate communication when necessary.

Effective communication with non-English speakers is an essential skill in a globalized world. Avoiding jargon and embracing concise communication can bridge cultural divides, enhance collaboration, and foster a more productive business environment. Remember, patience is key, and always be kind.  

The NDTO is dedicated to helping you succeed internationally. Information like this and much more is available through NDTO, so please reach out if you have questions or would like more information at