Challenges in Meetings

Lesson 4: Topic 3 of 6

English language  learners may face a number of difficulties when participating in meetings in American workplaces. Obviously, a language barrier can create problems. Beyond this, the tendency of Americans to heavily use idioms and slang makes comprehension harder. This sometimes makes it difficult for even more advanced English speakers to participate in the discussion and to communicate their ideas. This can again lead to feelings of isolation and frustration, and may make it harder for them to advance in their careers.

Meetings that are fast-paced and informal in nature reflect the preference of Americans,  but may be completely outside the comfort zone of people from other cultures.  If conversations are more casual, using rapid back and forth banter or even intense verbal exchanges, the meaning can be hard to follow. American employees are often at ease with a lot of interruptions, overlapping conversations, and even contradicting the boss in the room. This can be difficult for English learners to understand and accept. Such practices can make it harder for them to keep up with the conversation and to understand the context of the discussion. Many times, they will initially either rarely or never speak up.

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Despite these challenges, English learners often find ways to navigate meetings in American workplaces. Many seek out outside resources and support to help them improve their language skills and to become more familiar with American workplace culture. They may also learn to adapt their communication style to better fit in with American workplace practices. It takes initiative and a great deal of determination to make these changes, though, and some might become discouraged. In those cases, the intervention of a supervisor or Human Resources may be needed to assist with more learning help. 

Teams or departments can also adapt to assist English learners to function well in meetings. A well-intentioned team can make quite the difference with some outside training. Again, patience and support for the learning team member is crucial.