Top 10 communication tips when your mother tongue isn’t English

Anuja Khadka

Flying on a jet plane overseas can be a dream come true. At the same time, achieving this dream is not easy. It might sicken you by culture shock and miscommunication.

I got culture shock regarding the language right after landing at the Philadelphia airport. I was not able to understand what the cafeteria person was saying.

My first dinner was a big sigh–not being able to talk fluently with a fork and a knife.  It is challenging to adapt your tongue not only with the foreign taste but also the language.

“The names of food are so different and difficult to pronounce,” says Haritha Tilakarathna, an exchange student visiting from Sri Lanka.

Seattle is a melting pot of all types of students from all around the world. I spent few days figuring out how to communicate well. Here are the top ten tips to cope with communication in your foreign language

1. Have patience

Like a famous writer Cassesndra Clare once said “Good things come to those who wait”, you require patience to understand and express properly. You cannot expect cross cultural communication to be easy; it takes time. Thilini Kahandawaarachchi,international student at UW says, “I sometimes lack patience and I talk fast. But I have learnt to talk slowly to make people understand what I say.”

2. Understand slangs

Initially, I tried avoiding the talk due to the fear of not getting slangs.But running away from the problem is not a solution. Manager of Community Programs of Foundation of International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), Ellen Frierson says, “American slangs are very hard. Students have problem because lots of Americans talk very fast. You should get along with people and speak speak speak! ” 3. Will to speak up.

3. Will to Share

Kripa Sigdel, an exchange student, with gloomy face said, “I try really hard to articulate feelings and communicate but sometimes I just go dumb!” Though she seemed low, the hope to be able to articulate was clearly depicted in her eyes. To overcome this, she suggests to put effort to mingle with friends around to learn what people want from her and how they perceive her.

4. Prepare for the culture difference

Preparing yourself about airport security, currency and maps is not enough. Learn about the new place and culture on books, magazines and the Internet.Be curious about the culture and ask questions to your friends and relatives who have already been to America.

5. Ask for clarification politely
Problem of vague terms always got solved when the request for clarification was asked politely. I learned to accept and share that I was in a trouble of getting them. For some, this can be embarrassing. It can really help if you express it. As long as you have will, you are going to win over the vague meaning too.

6. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Practicing doesn’t always mean talking to your closest friends only. It also means going out and building the network. Practice teaches the culture, language and slangs too.

7. Watch a lot of TV shows!

Big Bang Theory, Modern family and Friends! Photo : chubbyriceball.Photo : chubbyriceball.You could watch one of these.  The more you watch the English television shows, more you’ll learn this languagPhoto : chubbyriceball.bbyriceball.

8. Be careful of jargons

According to Kripa, there are some jargons which Americans can only understand and South Asians cannot. Jargons can disconnect the concentration of the listener. Try to be simple and clear while writing and speaking.
9. Don’t be shy
Not all people are extroverts. But being shy is not going to give me a good treat. Jiachun Shi, international student at UW says “Don’t be shy, sometimes you’ll feel embarrassed for failing to make people get you. But that’s okay. ”

10. Value and respect the conversation

It is important to get connected with your communicating partner during the conversation. Your attentions shouldn’t be to some other thing around. Joslyn forwarded her opinion “Along with patience, a sense of empathy, respect for others and their cultures, the ability to listen and courage to ask questions are all important abilities to have while communicating. ”

Photo: Tom Lang
Photo: Tom Lang


We all are social animals who have equal capability for wisdom and skills to represent the place we were grown. The world is divided into different partitions but we all share one sky and one Earth which proves that we all want to communicate and it is possible.


  1. Anuja, your English is excellent!! I think your most important tip is to not be shy….ask questions, participate, that is how we interact. It can’t be easy, but you did it!

Comments are closed.


  1. Anuja, your English is excellent!! I think your most important tip is to not be shy….ask questions, participate, that is how we interact. It can’t be easy, but you did it!

Comments are closed.