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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Part 1 of Cross-cultural communication conundrums ("It's a slam dunk!")


A US-based colleague of mine whom I'd had the recent pleasure to meet, spoke to my immediate team about working effectively across various cultures. The basketball expression "it's a slam dunk!" was, in his experience, as bewildering to his overseas colleagues as what we might consider to be less esoteric expressions, like "no kidding".

This prompted me to consider what lessons I'd learned in my position as a thrice ex-patriated person with a working knowledge of Japanese and French (and now challenged with Austrian German).

In Ireland, it took me a surprisingly long time to truly understand Hiberno-English. Never mind the phonetic shifts (aka "accent"); even transcribed, common interjections and vocabulary can quickly mystify the non-initiated.

Take this example sentence which artificially conflates a lot of native (Dublin centric) expressions:

"Oh be the hokie: my laptop was banjaxed. I felt so knackered after trying to fix it that when I met yer wan on the footpath by Mssrs., I barely said how'ya."

I'll post a translation if there's enough interest from the non-Dub readers!

In any case, my example serves the purpose of reminding us that just because everyone speaks a flavour of English, 100% communication is far from a "sure thing" (see, another expression that may baffle a non-native speaker).


About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.