Cross-Cultural Communication Tips

Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate with students when they first arrive. Please see some tips below for ways to assist in the communication process.

Provide clues to meaning

  • Use drawings, gestures, actions, mime and visual materials to provide clues to meaning.
  • If necessary, repeat your actions using the same simple sentences and actions.
  • Simplify your message as much as possible, breaking them into smaller, manageable parts to give the student a chance at comprehending.
  • Be aware that in some cultures it is considered rude to make eye contact, so students may feel uncomfortable looking at you directly when talking.

Modify your speech

  • Talk at a slow-to-normal pace, in short sentences using a pleasant tone.
  • Use simple sentence structure and common words.
  • Pause after phrases or short sentences, not after each word. You do not want to distort the rhythm of the language.
  • Ask simple yes/no questions so that students have an opportunity to respond.

Be an active listener

  • Give your full attention to the student and make every effort to understand his/her attempts to communicate.
  • Smile and talk in a calm, quiet manner. Demonstrate your patience through your facial expressions and body language.
  • Give your students extra time to respond – ‘Translation time’
  • Try not to jump in immediately to supply the words for the student. This may inhibit students, so that they will be less willing to try in the future.

Cultural Sensitivities

    We wish to remind all our host families to be aware of cultural sensitivities specifically in relation to “touching” students. A harmless hug, pat on the back, in particular by male members of the family, can sometimes be misconstrued by the student. What seems innocent in our culture, can be misinterpreted by the student and reported to authorities. This can lead to distressing situations for the host family and everyone involved.
    It is also important to watch the language that is used around students. In Australian culture, some “swear words” are used commonly and are not meant to cause offence. However, this is often very different to how other cultures view these same words. Shouting and swearing at a student is never acceptable behaviour. If you are having issues with a student, please bring this to our attention before it reaches a crisis point.