異文化コミュニケーション: 誰とでも上手くコミュニケーションをとるための5つのヒント!

Cross-cultural Communication: 5 Tips to Communicate Successfully with Anyone

The world and the workforce are more globalized than ever before. Here are a few tips to help you communicate with people from different languages and cultural backgrounds.


In Tecdia HQ, there are a lot of people from different backgrounds, with staff members coming from different countries such as Canada, Russia, China, Australia and of course, Japan. The language of the office is Japanese, and while all the foreigners who work here speak Japanese, our ability levels can be anywhere from native-like, business-level, or daily conversation level. Our Japanese colleagues also have to learn to communicate with us, such as where our cultures are different, and how they can adapt to have a successful team. Our Japanese staff also interact with the staff at our manufacturing partner, located in the Philippines, as well as various customers and suppliers from around the world.


Therefore I have written 5 tips to keep in mind when you are communicating with non-native speakers of the language, or when you are the non-native speaker communicating with other native speakers!

  • 簡単に話す  (speak simply)
  • 積極的に聞く (listen actively)
  • ジェスチャーに気をつける (gesture carefully)
  • 親切に考える  (think kindly)
  • 柔軟に調整 (adjust flexibly)




1. 簡単に話す (Speak Simply)

異なる言語背景を持つ人と話すとき(特に自分がネイティブスピーカーで相手がそうでない場合)、最初に覚えておくべきことは、はっきりと話し、共通の単語を使うことです。当たり前のことのように見えるかもしれませんが、 特に複雑な語彙を必要とする専門分野では、すぐに忘れてしまうことがあります 。例えば、初めて当社の製造工場を訪れた時、工場長から「共晶」の翻訳を頼まれた時のことは忘れられません。私は技術・エンジニアリング会社に勤めているかもしれませんが、技術者ではありません。私は早速、この言葉を知らないことを伝え、JP-ENGの辞書で調べました。直訳は「eutectic point or temperature」で、「eutectic」も見たことのない言葉でした!

When speaking to someone from a different language background (especially if you are a native speaker and they are not), the first thing to remember is to speak clearly and use common words. This might seem obvious, but it can quickly be forgotten – especially in specialist areas that require complex vocabulary. For example, I will never forget my first visit to our manufacturing facility, when the head of the factory asked me to translate 共晶. Now, I may work at a technology and engineering company, but I am not an engineer. I promptly told him I did not know the word and looked it up in my JP-ENG dictionary. The translation was eutectic point/temperature, eutectic being another word I had never seen before!



But, as it turns out, there are simpler ways to describe things, even it takes a few extra words. You may have to try a few different examples, but doing so not only demonstrates your kindness, but also your deep understanding of the conversational topic. The non-native speaker will be grateful!

2. 積極的に聞く (Listen Actively)


Active listening should be practiced with anyone you speak to, but especially so in the case where native and non-native speakers are conversing. Indicate that you are following along with culturally-appropriate actions, such as nodding, short words of agreement or emotional reactions. Not only will these reinforce confidence in the speaker that their message is getting across, but by stopping doing such actions when you do not understand something, the speaker will notice and be able to explain the point of confusion.



If you are the non-native speaker, it can be worth interrupting where an unknown word or grammar comes up and ask the speaker to explain the meaning. These days, most phones have a notetaking app that you can use to write memos. You can take a few seconds here and there to jot down new vocabulary so that they can be reviewed later. After a while, you will find that your vocabulary has grown!

3. ジェスチャーに気をつける(Gesture carefully)


People often say that they will be able to get by in a foreign country with body language and just a few words. After all, we’re all human and our bodies are largely the same. Indeed, some gestures are universal – like a smile indicating happiness. However, other gestures are not, and because of this, it can be a good idea to limit your gestures until you learn some of your cultural partners norms around gesturing. If not, it can lead to confusion.



When I was in high school, I studied abroad in Vietnam. I was sitting on the couch one day, when my Vietnamese stepmother gestured to me. She had her arm out, her palm facing down and was waving her fingers back and forth. I thought that she wanted me to go away, but actually she meant was the opposite! In Australia, we do a similar gesture to mean “go away”, and same gesture but with the palm facing up means “come here”. In Japan, like Vietnam, “come here” is signaled with the palm facing down.



So if you find someone is not responding to the gestures you are using, perhaps they simply do not understand your meaning, and you should consider another way to communicate.


4. 親切に考える (Think kindly)


Everyone makes mistakes. I can think of some I’ve made just this week, and I’m sure you can too. Sometimes mistakes are little, and sometimes they can bigger, but either way, they are unintentional.



We can make mistakes in communication as well. Sometimes, especially in cross-cultural communication, the non-native person had no intention to be rude, and may not even be aware of the mistake they have made! In those cases, I would advise you not to take offence, and (if possible) explain the mistake to that person. There is a saying that goes “never attribute to malice what can be caused by miscommunication”, which sums up this situation nicely. Rather than believing that the person who is not familiar with the culture has deliberately intended to hurt or offend others, the more likely explanation is that it was just a miscommunication that can be resolved. Be understanding, and if you can, correct them so they will not make similar mistakes again.


また、彼らの文化について学ぶようにしてください。そうすれば、その違いや潜在的な問題が出てくる可能性がある場所を知ることができます。文化の違いや類似性について、できるだけ多くのことを学びましょう – 最近では、ブログやビデオ、ニュースなど、オンライン上には本物の正確な情報がたくさんあります。何か面白いことを学んだり、何か分かりにくいことがあれば、外国人の友人や同僚に丁寧に尋ねてみましょう!彼らは、あなたが彼らのことを考えていること、そして最高のコミュニケーション方法を考えていることを喜んでくれます。

Also, it can be helpful to learn about their culture, so you can see the difference and where potential problems might come up. Learn as much as you can about the cultural differences and similarities – these days there is plenty of authentic and accurate information online, whether that is in blogs, videos or news. If you learn something interesting, or if something seems confusing, politely ask your foreign friend or colleague! No doubt they would be delighted that you are thinking of them and how to best communicate.



5. 柔軟に調整可能 (Adjust flexibly)


Lastly, the most important advice I can give is “be flexible”. When working with people from different cultures, or communicating with people from different language backgrounds, you may find that your previous ways of building rapport and understanding just do not work this time. When that happens, all you can do is know that nobody gets it right the first time, and then you can adjust.


最近では様々なコミュニケーションツールがありますので、それを利用することができます。メール、Slack、Teams、ビデオ通話、画面共有、インターネットなど。ある媒体でのコミュニケーションに悩んでいる人は、他の媒体に切り替えてみてください! 彼らは聞くことができるよりも、読むことができますか?もしそうなら、メールで指示を送ることができます。非ネイティブの人はTeamsよりも対面でのコミュニケーションの方が得意ですか?もしそうであれば、数分でもいいので直接会って、相手が何をしているのかを確認してみてください。直接来られない方-おそらくCOVID-19の予防策のために在宅でお仕事をされている方-は、ビデオチャットをしてみてはいかがでしょうか?

These days we have a variety of communications tools easily within reach, such as email, Slack, Teams, video calling, screen sharing, intranets and so on. If you are struggling to communicate in one medium, try switching to another! Can they read better than they can listen? If so, you can send instructions to them by email. Does the non-native person communicate better in person than over Teams? If so, try to touch base with them in person, even just for a few minutes to double check on what they are doing. If you can’t be there in person – perhaps you are working from home due to preventative measures against COVID-19 – how about having a video chat?


And that’s all. Working in a company with diversity is becoming more and more common, so communication skills are important. As everyone has different communicative strengths, you might have to change some things to suit you. I hope that by using this advice you will have successful communications with your multicultural friends and colleagues.