Cross cultural communication

With increasing globalisation and international trade, it is unavoidable that different cultures will meet, communicate, and integrate. People from different culture often find it is difficult to communicate not only due to language barriers, but also because of cultural differences.

Increasingly when people meet in a cross-cultural setting; for example, an international workshop or conference, or a international academic institution, they communicate in English. This is because often English is the only shared language amongst a group of people from different countries and cultures.

The article below gives seven simple tips to improving cross-cultural communication when the people communicating are using English as a second language.

1) Match the headings below to the paragraphs

Note there are two extra headings

  • Ask questions

  • Avoid idioms

  • Speak slowly

  • Keep it simple

  • Be aware of body language

  • Use your hands

  • Prepare beforehand

  • Take turns

  • Practise active listening

2) Identify the meaning of the four idioms highlighted in bold in the text



If possible, before you meet someone from another culture, do some research. It's easy enough on the internet. Become aware of some of the basic customs and rules around communicating in the other culture (e.g. touching, greetings, formal or non-formal terms etc)


In a cross cultural conversation keep your messages clear and concise. Use easy to understand language and short sentences. It is best to get straight to the point.


Make eye contact and show the other person your are listening. Ask questions, paraphrase or echo a speaker's comments to check you are on the same wavelength.


This is polite and respectful. After speaking, wait and then listen to the other person respond when it is their turn. It is better to talk in short exchanges rather than delivering long speeches that mean that other people cannot get a word in edgeways.


These are difficult to learn and difficult to understand, so when communicating with someone who is not a native English speaker, don't use them.


Don't rush. Think before you speak. Focus on speaking clearly and pronouncing your words properly. Give your listener time to translate and understand your words. Also, if the other person is speaking too quickly, don’t be afraid to politely ask them to slow down too.


Look for non-verbal communication, especially when talking with people from other cultures. While many native English speakers communicate using their hands and gestures, in some countries – such as Japan – this can be considered rude. It is also worth noting that the meanings of hand gestures can vary from country to country.

Enter your answers in the sheet below:


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