Communication Challenges of Skilled Immigrants

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Typical mistakes non-native English speakers make during interviews. Grammar, intonation, behaviour.

While Australia is a multi-cultural country where employers do their best to appreciate cultural differences, inevitably we come across some variances that might be confusing to both parties, can be perceived in the wrong way, and can, unfortunately, influence one’s chances for employment and career growth.

1.      Intonation.

Being a Russian I often come across native English speakers who perceive Russian style of communication sometimes abrupt or even arrogant. Apart from the cultural differences (check on ‘peach’ v ‘coconut’ cross-cultural communication manner), we need to take into account that the English and Russian languages, apart from the obvious dissimilarities, vary in the way we apply intonation stress in sentences. Russians tend to stress the last word in the affirmative sentence, as it usually contains the rhema (Greek, meaning: the action of the sentence). The English language has at least four different intonations, which vary depending on the situation and context, and stressing the last word in the sentence would mean that your opponent feels quite strong about the subject or is just upset.

2.      Using terminology or words, the meaning of you are not entirely sure or mispronouncing them.

Most often, this occurs among people who worked in international companies back home, where they communicated in English hence, they feel quite confident about their language skills. However, they might mispronounce or interpret some words incorrectly, while being fully unaware of these stylistic inaccuracies. A typical mistake would be the word ‘perspective’ which (with slight alteration) means ‘prospect’ in Russian, so Russians can mistakenly say ‘perspective’ when in fact they mean ‘prospect’ in English.

3.      Long sentences and complex grammar.

Despite your fluency and level of knowledge of the English language, make sure you communicate clearly and concisely. Comprehension is the most important part of communication, so your purpose is to ensure your opponents that neither they nor other colleagues would have trouble while communicating with you. Do not use complex grammar constructions by adding ‘and’ and ‘because’ if you are not 100% sure what you are going to say after. You would not want to corner yourself by trying think of what you need to say. Concentrate on what you CAN say rather than on what you CAN NOT.

4.      Too many details, at times not relevant to the question.

It is ultimately important to structure your answer and ensure that your interviewer stays interested and does not lose the plot at all times. Make sure that you talk about what you have done rather than describing the team efforts. Always articulate your points (whether with intonation, verbally or with gestures) and keep them brief.

Hope it helps, and next time I am going to talk about speech traps and how to get out of them 🙂