On the 21st of February the world celebrated World Mother Language day. The theme for the year was languages without borders. This day is celebrated across the world to acknowledge and glorify diversity in the world. According to the United Nations around 43 percent of the 6000 languages spoke across the world are at risk of being eliminated.
The UN has said that on average a language disappears every 2 weeks, which destroys an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. In keeping with the need to promote cultural diversity and there was hope that local and cross boarder languages would promote peaceful dialogue and help to preserve indigenous heritage.
In the forefront of training we are often asked about cultural diversity and how it should be promoted. What companies find is that there are groups of people that use their mother tongue or mother language at work and this results in misunderstandings. People who are not familiar with the language start to assume that the conversation could be about them. In an event like this we often suggest a constant medium of communication. But do we actually realise how difficult it must eb for someone who does not use English as their home language to engage in the work place.
It becomes a long battle of thinking of a sentence in your home language then translating it (the best way you can) in your mind before sharing it with someone else. We identify these as communication barriers. Because we identify culture and language as barriers.
So how do we overcome these barriers in the workplace?
The solution is so simple and it definitely can form part of a team building exercise. Why not utalise a day in the week to be an information exchanging session? Friday often the day to wrap up the weeks agenda can be a day used to raise awareness and knowledge around various cultures and their languages.
This way should people communicate with like-language people in the office it would be applauded and encouraged. This could also bring out other cultural groups to share their mother languages and learn about their languages.
We have very little time until millennials take over with much more texting and less face to face conversations. While we have the time let us use it to promote diversity and learning. We don’t have to wait for Heritage Day. Make Heritage happen as often as you can.
Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute. ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.