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Effective Cross-Cultural Communication Tips. Melanie Manares Kansas State Department of Education. Before you begin…. Learn how to pronounce the person’s name and how to address him/her Learn about appropriate eye or physical contact Be aware of inappropriate gestures Avoid taboo subjects

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Effective Cross-Cultural Communication Tips

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Effective cross cultural communication tips

Effective Cross-Cultural Communication Tips

Melanie Manares

Kansas State Department of Education

Before you begin

Before you begin…

  • Learn how to pronounce the person’s name and how to address him/her

  • Learn about appropriate eye or physical contact

  • Be aware of inappropriate gestures

  • Avoid taboo subjects

  • Know some basic words and phrases

When there is no interpreter yet

When there is no interpreter…(yet)

  • Speak slowly

  • Use short sentences

  • Talk about one thing at a time

  • Use the active voice

  • Avoid idioms and jargon

  • Avoid vague modifiers

  • Use positive phrasing

  • Limit the use of contractions

Most importantly

Most importantly…

  • Be patient

  • Listen carefully and attentively

  • Reassure attempts at English

  • Gently encourage practicing English

Don t leave out the interpreter

Don’t leave out the interpreter!

  • Recipients of federal funds are to obtain interpreter services for limited English proficient persons.

  • Go to www.lep.gov for more information.

Using an interpreter

Using an interpreter…



Using an interpreter1

Using an interpreter…

  • Customers should not be told to provide an interpreter

  • Be sure that the interpreter is fully bilingual and familiar with both cultures

  • Ensure that the interpreter is knowledgeable about the subject

Using an interpreter2

Using an interpreter…

  • Conduct a pre-conference

  • Use proper seating arrangement

  • Speak to the client, not to the interpreter

Different types of cultures

Different Types of Cultures…

  • Less formal address

  • Authority? Whose authority?

  • Youth and beauty are valued

  • Clock

  • Task

  • Independence

  • More formal address

  • Deeper respect for authority

  • Age and wisdom are valued

  • What clock?

  • Relationship

  • Interdependence

Norms are not the norm



Yes means yes

Being up front

Smile means friendly, warm and inviting


Name is my own

Animals make great pets

Round about


Yes means not no

Saving face

Smile means not serious, flaky, inviting


Name is my family’s

Animals are dirty and should be left outside

Norms are not the norm

Snack or sick morsel or immoral

Snack or Sick? Morsel or Immoral?

  • Would you change your diet if you lived somewhere where it was the norm, or a necessity, or your only sustenance? – How much would you change?

  • Are rats to be revered or reviled? Are pigs delicious or disgusting? Are cows sacred or supper? Are dandelions a wine or a weed?

What s appropriate

What’s appropriate?

  • Shake hands

  • Look someone in the eye

  • Bring flowers when you visit someone in the hospital

  • Wear white to a funeral

  • Clap in church or express yourself vocally during the service

Is it strange to

Is it strange to…?

  • Give someone a birthday gift

  • Take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home

  • Kiss someone hello

  • Take food to a grieving family

  • Use physical force as a means of discipline

Is it uncomfortable to

Is it uncomfortable to…?

  • Wash your feet before you enter a place of worship

  • Accept food someone offers but not eat it

  • Give your shoes or jewelry to someone who admires them


Understand …

  • that people naturally bring their own norms to the table. They operate under the rules they know to be correct.

  • that someone’s odd behavior may be odd only to you. They may find your reaction to their normal behavior equally odd.

Misunderstandings occur when

Misunderstandings occur when…

people employ different rules or different norms to a shared situation.

Trouble begins when

Trouble begins when…

people think that their way is the only way or is the way that makes the most sense, and they refuse to look at the situation differently or from another perspective.

Solutions happen when people

Solutions happen when people…

  • have more possibilities in mind

  • have more willing acceptance of new or different ideas

  • have positive experiences to rely on

  • compromise, bend, learn, ask, give, and take.

Send questions comments and requests for information to

Send questions, comments, and requests for information to:

Melanie Manares

(785) 296-7929


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