International environments and the importance of non-verbal communication
Wednesday, 18th March 2009
Manchester United trio Carlos Tevez, Ji-Sung Park and Patrice Evra have apparently become best mates, to the bemusement of the rest of the players.
A Manchester United team-mate is quoted as having said of the Argentine, the South Korean and the Frenchman: “What language do they speak? They walk around together, they banter with each other. I don’t know how it works.”
Although knowing at least some of a foreign language is helpful when it comes to cross-cultural communication, this serves as confirmation that it’s not the ‘be all and end all‘!
As someone who has attended language courses in many different places, and taught beginners’ English to multilingual groups in the UK I have witnessed this very phenomenon time and time again. A few common words here and there, alongside a good helping of ‘non verbal communication’ will usually suffice when it comes to forming initial relationships with people who speak another language.
Of course, there are limits to how close the bond can become if neither party increases their knowledge of a common language, but normally this is not the case. Indeed, sometimes it can be the very inspiration to learn a new language…
The inability to speak a foreign language fluently will never affect your ability to meet people from other countries and cultures - the odd phrase here and there, along with a smile, a bit of tolerance and an openness to difference go a long way… further even than advanced knowledge of the language, if you have the wrong attitude! This goes for both sides too - if you find yourself somewhere notoriously unfriendly, where people are not especially welcoming to foreigners, it’s unlikely that the same will apply.
Manchester, and indeed the North of England in general, is however famous for its openness and friendly local population - as a friend from this part of the country tells me ‘ we don’t care where you are from or how much you earn as long as you can make good banter….’ !