Cultural And Language Barriers Cultural Studies Essay

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Cultural and language barriers to effective business communication in manufacturing and construction industries in the city of Charlotte of North Carolina and ways to overcome them the last decade.

The foreign-born workers in the city of Charlotte have been expanded and they are increasingly becoming a vital part of the community and local workforce. While many foreign-born workers have assimilated into the workplace, others make an effort to overcome cultural and language barriers that exist. In my opinion, it is in the best interest of employers to better understand and help bridge the cultural and language divide as more foreign-born workers stream into the workforce. Being proactive in helping break down these barriers can reduce costly, on-the-job accidents caused by workers not fully understanding safety rules or operational procedures, improve employers' ability to recruit, hire and retain workers; and increase workers' productivity.

According to U.S Census Bureau from the article "Foreign-Born Population in the United States" the author argues that like other metropolitan areas around the country, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has experienced significant increases in foreign-born residents and workers over the last decade. In 1990, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that approximately 3.5% of Mecklenburg County's population was foreign-born, or around 18,000 people. While official 2000 Census data on the foreign-born population will not be released until late 2002, preliminary Census information reveals a 162% increase in Mecklenburg County's Asian population between 1990 and 2000 and a 570% increase in the Hispanic/Latino population. Together, these two population segments accounted for more than one-quarter (28.2%) of the county's overall population growth during the decade.

Immigrants from other regions of the world are also rising in number, further diversifying Charlotte-Mecklenburg's population. According to the 2000 Census, approximately 21,000 non- Hispanic or Asian immigrants were living in Mecklenburg County in 2000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reports that over 84 languages are now spoken within the international student population. The Census Bureau projects we will continue to see increases in our foreign-born population over the next several decades, particularly Hispanic/Latino residents. The number of new Hispanic residents is expected to increase at a rate of 10 million people every 10 years nationwide. According to the Bureau, the western states will likely see the largest increases, followed by south and southeastern states. North Carolina currently ranks 9th among all states in the number of Mexican-born residents. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000)

According to the web site www.charlotteworks.org "In some cultures, a social hierarchy often exists that can create "bumps" in communication in the workplace. For example, in many countries, women are subordinate to men. Working in an American business, women from these countries may feel uncomfortable or violated in some way. In contrast, males with such cultural backgrounds may not adapt well to working equally with females or having female supervisors". (www.charlotteworks.org)

This opinion indicates that there is a difference between males and females, men and women about the perception of roles and status that each of them can adapt in the workplace. This understanding of interaction between sexes and roles assigned in various cultures can be very important for employers to take it into account.

According to the journal article "Language management in multinational companies the author argues that body language says a lot, but it can be interpreted differently in the world. For example most Americans typically signal "no" in shaking their heads, but people from dome countries raise their chins". (Alan J. Feely, Anne-Wil Harzing 2003, p.37)

I think body language is very important for the workplace to be adapted. Several people have different kinds of elements in body language such as shaking their heads and hands, raise their chins and also eye contact. Cultural differences in non-verbal behaviours are a common source of misunderstandings and conflict in the workplace. For instance, many westerners like to make eye contact, interpreting it as an indication of interest and honesty. They also show friendliness through relaxed body language. If these behaviours do not happen, it can be interpreted as shiftiness, coldness and disinterest. However, in some cultures, averted eyes and non-demonstrable behaviour are a sign of courtesy and respect. Being aware of these nuances will help you to reduce negative impressions in inter-cultural communications among your staff. All these reactions have different meanings from people who come from different cultures.

According to the newspaper article "International relations the journalist says that in many cultures religion dominates life in a way that is often difficult for Americans to understand". (Network World, p.47)

I believe that is very difficult for Americans to understand religion differences that occur among cultures. For example, workers from some Muslim cultures may want to pray three times a day in accordance with theirs values and beliefs. There may also be religious holidays on which people of certain religions are forbidden to work or need to follow certain customs. For some of them maybe is a way of life to respect all these things and also these differences need to be respected from others, and the needs associated with religious commitments understood and sensitively negotiated within the workplace. Clear communication on both sides about these issues is to be encouraged, where possible and not ignored.

According to the book Intercultural communication for Business the author argues that "hygiene and grooming, as well as attire can vary from country to country and culture to culture. (Elizabeth A. Tuleja, 2005; p55)

Some people may wear attire such as a headdress as part of their customs and beliefs. So, to remain true to all this tradition workers may want to continue to wear this dress in the American workplace. Employers may view this as inappropriate or unsafe but is part of their culture to dress like this and it must also be respectable from their supervisors or employers. It is particularly problematic in businesses in which workers wear uniforms. In another example, immigrants from India, Turkey or other countries may use spices in their diets that are emitted through the body. American workers can interpret this as dirty or unhygienic. Employers have to handle these issues sensitively and proactively to avoid unnecessary conflict and distress. Thus, the personal appearance is another factor that is very important on the workplace and entails differences among various countries and cultures.

Clearly it is the responsibility of immigrant workers to learn English and adapt to the cultural norms in the American workplace. However, this can take time. Employers have much to gain from helping their workers bridge the cultural divide. Too many employers expecting immigrant workers to figure things out for themselves, which doesn't work in many cases. Nor is it a wise business decision. The benefits to employers of investing time and resources in helping immigrant workers adapt to the workplace include increased productivity and performance, greater trust and loyalty among workers and improved safety. This can translate into higher business profits in the long run.

So, human resource professionals have to offer some tips or suggestions for employers who want to strengthen and retain their immigrant workforce.

Employers have to learn as much as they can about the culture of the people they are dealing with, particularly if they employ several people from the same cultural background.

According to the journal article "Overcoming Cultural and Language Barriers in Facilitation and Training the author argues that getting to know a person's culture is a first step to getting to know them as individuals". (Anthony Griffin, 2002, p.37)

Thus, employers have to respect individual differences, abilities and personalities. Even though people may share a common language or culture, it doesn't mean they are alike, any more than all Americans are alike. Stereotyping discounts individuals and can limit options for them in the workplace.

An other suggestion for employers can be to provide an orientation program for new hires that addresses some of the cultural differences and language barriers. This can help head off confusing or potentially unpleasant experiences for international employees. Moreover, employers can consider having co-workers serve as mentors or coaches to help new workers adapt to the culture and vocabulary of the workplace. Furthermore, when employers working with immigrants, have to refrain from using jargon or slang that might not translate well. They have to choose words that convey the most specific meaning and stick to one topic at a time.

According to the book "Hiring and Managing a Culturally Diverse Workforce the author argues that when employers have to train immigrant employees, make sure they understand their training material and why it is useful to them". (Brian K. Linhardt, 2000; p.53)

Employers can use techniques such as graphics or demonstrations to illustrate points whenever possible. Often the lack of effective training tools and qualified instructors can leave immigrant workers out of the training loop and limit their opportunities to enhance their skills and advance in the workplace.

Also, employers have to never assume that their communication with the workers with limited English-speaking abilities has been understood. It will be a good idea for them to ask for feedback or for demonstration, particularly when employers are training the workers.

According to the magazine article "Cultural Sensitivity Makes Good Business Sense the journalist argues that employers have to recognize the broad ethnic diversity that exists within groups." (HR Magazine, p.67)

These groups might be Hispanics or Asians. Employers don't have to assume that everyone shares common cultural backgrounds or languages just because they came from the same region of the world. Someone labeled "Hispanic" may come from the mountains of Chili, a large Central American city or a rural village in Mexico. The same is true for immigrants from the many different Asian countries where cultures and languages vary widely.

In addition, employers have to be patient with their workforce. A thoughtful supervisor or co-worker can make all the difference in helping and prevent feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment when a person cannot express him or herself clearly or fully.

Moreover, employers can recruit bilingual managers and supervisors to server as the communication link between cultures and engage co-workers to serve as translators while people are learning English.

Also, if there is a large number of people in need of learning English, employers can help and educate those people to learn English as a second language. The lessons can be taught during the lunch hour or other times during the day. To do so, it is important to create a safe environment for learning. Helping people learn English is a way to build trust and loyalty.

According to the book "Bridging Cultural Barriers for Corporate Success the author argues that employers have to help workers take care of their basic survival needs" (Sondra Thiederman, 1991, p.89)

For example, helping them find transportation to and from work can reduce fears of the unknown and build trust and loyalty with the worker. Companies can have cooperation with the city of Charlotte and make contracts to provide vanpool vans to transport a group of immigrants workers to and from work at little cost to the companies or the workers. Other ways to help may include assisting workers establish credit or file income tax returns, which can seem to be monumental tasks for someone who doesn't know the system.

Furthermore, employers have to provide sensitivity training to native workers in the company to make them more aware of and sensitive toward the different cultural differences.

Needless to say, that employers have to promote immigrants when appropriate, not only to give people more opportunities, but to show other immigrants that they can advance if they prove themselves. It is a reward for them to be promoted and also a fair system of the workforce evaluation.

The first source describes and gives a demographic evaluation of the foreign workforce in the city of Charlotte. The following four sources deal with the cultural and language barriers in the workplace. On the web site the factors that have been described are roles and status. Each culture has its own social hierarchy and that feature affects communication in the workplace. On the other hand the journal article describes the characteristics of body language. Body language can be interpreted differently among different cultures in the workplace. Each culture has different meanings and codes which are derived from body language. Apart from the web site and journal article, the newspaper article rely on religion. Religion is a very important part of people's life and for some cultures is actually a way of life to depend on it, and so that has an impact to the workplace environment. The last source that has derived from the book mentions that different personal appearance has to do from various countries and cultures. So, inappropriate or unsafe attire in a workplace environment can provoke the behavior of employers or supervisors.

The last four sources describe the ways in which employers can help bridge the cultural and language divide in the workplace. On the journal article the author explains that employers have to respect individual differences, abilities and personalities in order to have a better idea about the person's culture and also get to know him as individual. On the other hand, according to the book "Hiring and Managing a Culturally Diverse Workforce" the author explains the importance of the training of immigrant employees and how must be implemented in order to understand the immigrants the training material and why it is useful for them.

Apart from the journal article and the book, the magazine article rely on the ability of the employer to recognize the broad ethnic diversity that exists within groups. Employers don't have to assume that everyone shares common cultural backgrounds or languages just because they came from the same region of the world. The last source that derived from the book "Bridging Cultural Barriers for Corporate Success" mentions that employers have to help workers take care of their basic survival needs, such as helping them find transportation to and from work in order to feel more comfortable.

The amount of information that each source describes may not be so much but the authors of each source explain the topic in depth. Each of the author mentions one characteristic that is relevant for the topic and can all be explained more with examples in every day life. Furthermore, the kind of information that each of the source contains has to do with the opinions and personal views of the authors that are derived by personal experience, research and professionalism about topics that occur in contemporary business society.

I believe that the subject is very clear and is helpful to me to understand the topic, so to provide the appropriate details and explanations to cover the subject and analyze the thesis statement in order to fulfill the purpose of the topic.

All language and cultural barriers may not have such dire consequences, but they can contribute to a lack of productivity, mistakes being made or general lack of trust between the employer and workers, all of which could be avoided if communication were clearer. Even if workers can speak English fairly well, the lingo, slang or jargon that is commonly used by Americans or is specific to different industries can create difficulties for foreign workers. We take it for granted that everyone knows what we are talking about. Not knowing these terms does not imply a person isn't smart or capable, but he or she simply may not have learned the words or jargon that are commonly used by others on the job or in everyday conversation.

In my opinion, I believe that it depends to the employer to help the foreign workforce to adapt more easily in the new culture for them, the American culture. In addition, the foreign workforce has to try to do their best but mostly it is in the best interest of employers to better understand and help bridge the cultural and language divide as more foreign-born workers stream into the workforce.

Because ethnic diversity is part of the new reality of the American workplace, it is important for the business community, workforce educators, trainers and other human resource professionals to gain a better understanding of and sensitivity to language barriers and cultural differences among workers from all backgrounds. Such understanding and sensitivity will help employers increase recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of immigrant workers. Ultimately, it will help businesses remain competitive by maintaining a stable, productive and safe workforce.

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