In this article, you will discover that the language barrier is not necessarily a difficulty but also how to overcome it.
Our solutions can help you to improve your communication with a foreigner, namely, to know how to dialogue better and how to use body language to make yourself understood.
A simple definition of the language barrier is the difficulty encountered by speakers of different languages to understand each other.
It is therefore quite easy to understand that it can be encountered when traveling, with cultural differences, when you are a foreign student, with certain refugees etc.
Overcoming the language barrier is not always easy, but it is surmountable thanks to the following useful advices.
Communication is essentially nonverbal, taking into account intonation, posture, facial expressions, rapidity of gestures...
In a Latin country, for example, it is more customary and socially accepted to express yourself with open, ample gestures and to speak close to one's interlocutor, unlike in Nordic or Slavic countries such as Poland.
Find as much information as you can about what to do and what not to do when you travel. However, there are some gestures that are universal or almost universal, such as pointing in one direction. Some facial expressions such as joy or sadness are even shared by all humanity, which is useful to express emotions.
Posture, gestures, intonation, silences, etc. are all elements that will help you in order to communicate. Nevertheless, the way you express yourself can quickly become a matter of concern as soon as you or your interlocutor is fluent in the language.
Indeed, even when you seem very comfortable in a language, the native speakers are more easily shocked by a way of expressing considered inappropriate in their culture.
A beginner will be more easily excused. To avoid this pitfall, which can be disabling, especially in the work and business field, we recommend that you find out about correct or incorrect language practices with the speakers of a country.
Notice that the author Erin Meyer gives excellent advices on how to learn to communicate according to different countries in her book "The Culture Map : Decoding How People Think and Get Things Done in a Global World."
If there are more effective methods than others for learning a foreign language, it depends mostly on your natural abilities but also very much your level of involvement and motivation.
What is the underlying reason why you want to improve yourself ? Breaking the language barrier is a good one, especially if you need to clearly express your point of view in a foreign country to visit, at work, to seduce, to understand an administrative document written in a foreign language etc.
Knowing a few words can make communication easier but is often not enough to get by.
Therefore, two strategies are needed in addition to good body language. Either one learns a vehicular language (for example, English, which is the international language), or one learns the vernacular language of the country in which one finds oneself. This is the dominant language used by Aboriginal people.
No need to buy 50 books to learn a language, especially if you are aiming for a B1 level. Start by buying a basic textbook and practice your memory for 15 minutes a day. Learning common phrases will be enough for a while.
When you have a satisfying level of communication to follow a complex conversation with a B2 or C1 speaker, a new kind of barrier will be erected.
It will no longer be a question of understanding words, pronunciation, sentence structure and the meaning of a speech, but rather of accessing the depths of the language. Humor, cultural references and fixed expressions are interwoven into everyday language.
Mastering all these codes takes time and many misunderstandings can emerge from their use. For example, you may not understand a word game or slang in a conversation with friends and feel very quickly left out. Regular contact with the target language and its speakers helps to overcome these obstacles.
Whether in real life or through screens, talking with speakers and listening to podcasts, watching series (in VOST if possible) will allow you to store a maximum of subtleties related to the language.
If you want to express yourself in English, for example, Deepl is quite efficient even if it can be improved. You just have to write your sentence in French for an instantaneous translation or almost in Shakespeare's language and then check the result.
Google translation is also a good tool that can save you. A real-time voice translator like Langogo can also be useful.
Please note that this solution is only a troubleshooting solution. It will not always be enough to break down the language barrier. Especially since sometimes sites, applications and translation devices make small mistakes or can change the meaning of your sentence, especially if it is sophisticated.
Beyond the language barrier and the cultural barrier, the barrier of shame (of one's accent, of making mistakes...) must be broken and forgotten.
The best way to understand and be understood by others is to go out, talk, try and start over. As a general rule and depending on the context, people are often patient and can empathise with you.
Article co-authored by Maryam CHEHIH, director of the language school Polyglotterz.