Multilingual team communication

Published on 27 January 2016

Communication is a substantial skill for humans. That applies also to software projects.

According to this article (and many others), lack of communication is one of the reasons of project failures. After some years in the software development business I'm able to share my observations on how to improve communication.

Here is the list:

  • Establish a common vocabulary for the project and team.
  • Explicitly articulate what you mean if somebody looks confused.
  • Ask the person to repeat your sentence in his words when something is unclear.
  • Try to explain issue/solution etc. using other words if someone is still confused.
  • Ask for clarification/explanation if you don't understand something.
  • Use pen+paper technique to visualize your thoughts.

In addition, if you have multilingual team you should also take into account following:

  • Give the team some time to 'learn' each other. What words do they use to express themselves or describe emotions?
  • Take into account a person's culture. Some people may, for example, disagreeing by not saying a word.
  • Skip person's language errors, except cases when you don't understand whole sentence :).
  • Wikipedia may help sometimes. Find the term in your language and switch to their language or something that they understand.

Above lists are perhaps not complete, but they can be a starting point for further elaboration.

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