Overcoming Language Barriers

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Content

  • Language barrier in health care
  • The advantage of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the interpretation of language
  • Overcoming barriers beyond the language barrier

 

Language barrier in health care

A lot of literature seems to focus the challenges of language barriers in the health sector, as, for example, studies that identify language barrier as a significant threat to care quality in hospitals [1]. The adverse effects are related to the various health service processes, such as understanding, quality, and patient and provider satisfaction [2]. In multinational corporations (MNC), non-native speakers were found to tend to communicative withdrawal that is negatively influencing content and relationships [3]. Social isolation subsequently can lead to reinforcing the language and culture boundaries [4].

The advantage of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

The advantages from bilingualism are manifold; being an asset for (academic) career is one of them [5]. Mobility and employability are further evidenced examples that can be achieved, e.g., by content and language integrated learning (CLIL) to foster not only language, but also communication and interaction skills combined with intercultural awareness [6]. Indeed, it seems that hands-on activities and collaborative communication role-playing [7], or patient-centeredness, to use a health example again [16], even if supported by the native foreign language, are effective in overcoming language barriers [15]. Allowing silence to support communication processing should not be forgotten too [7]. Importantly, all begins with the proper identification of the existence of a language barrier at all [8]. An innovative medical dictionary and tracking application is facilitating the imperative language-related data collection of foreign clients [9].

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the interpretation of language

For the future it is predicted that so-called SATS (Synchronous Automated Translation Systems) or even reality augmenting wearables will take out the hassle of today’s still cumbersome translation applications such as Google [10]. Regarding the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to facilitate translation, women displayed a lower rate of technology use compared to their male colleagues [11]. For technology to be adopted by foreign-speaking users, aids and guides should be developed [12] and diverse learning backgrounds supported. Barriers can also arise due to cultural differences in learning and conceptualization styles. Also, especially in rural context, it should be evaluated whether ICT even contributes to increased awareness of separation with the rest of the world [13]. The presence of organizational codes and trade zones are examples of sub-cultures that can additionally make the interpretation of communication difficult [14].

Overcoming barriers beyond the language barrier

The progress in removing language barriers is for sure a great vision. However, in communication-intensive fields like social sciences (as compared to, e.g., technical engineering) [5], success will require more innovation. From the money-making industries relying on translation and interpretation services, some hesitance in adopting new business models might be expected. Finally, the maintenance of national borders may also use language to protect delimitations [10].

References

[1] Van Rosse, F., de Bruijne, M., Suurmond, J., Essink-Bot, M., & Wagner, C. (2016). Language barriers and patient safety risks in hospital care. A mixed methods study. International Journal Of Nursing Studies, 5445-53. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2015.03.012

[2] Schwei, R. J., Del Pozo, S., Agger-Gupta, N., Alvarado-Little, W., Bagchi, A., Chen, A. H., & … Jacobs, E. A. (2016). Changes in research on language barriers in health care since 2003: A cross-sectional review study. International Journal Of Nursing Studies, 5436-44. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2015.03.001

[3] Aichhorn, N., & Puck, J. (2017). “I just don’t feel comfortable speaking English”: Foreign language anxiety as a catalyst for spoken-language barriers in MNCs. International Business Review, 26(4), 749-763.

[4] Challenges in teaching international students: group separation, language barriers and culture differences. (2013).

[5] Lendák-Kabók, K. (2017). The impact of the language barrier on the success of Hungarian minority women in the higher education system of Serbia. Temida, Vol 20, Iss 1, Pp 77-93 (2017), (1), 77. doi:10.2298/TEM1701077L

[6] Yang, W. (2017). Tuning university undergraduates for high mobility and employability under the content and language integrated learning approach. International Journal Of Bilingual Education And Bilingualism, 20(6), 607-624. doi:10.1080/13670050.2015.1061474

[7] Doyle-Moss, A. M., Sor, S., Krupka, S. D., & Potts, A. (2018). Crossing the Language Barrier: A Role-Playing Activity. Nurse Educator, 43(1), 7-8. doi:10.1097/NNE.0000000000000456

[8] Okrainec, K., Booth, G., Hollands, S., & Bell, C. (2017). Language Barriers Among the Foreign-Born in Canada: Agreement of Self-Reported Measures and Persistence Over Time. Journal Of Immigrant & Minority Health, 19(1), 50-56. doi:10.1007/s10903-015-0279-9

[9] Tahir, D. (2015). App breaks down language barriers. Modern Healthcare, 45(4), 27.

[10] Tomáš, S. (2017). No linguistic borders ahead? Looking beyond the knocked-down language barrier. Transcultural, Vol 9, Iss 2, Pp 86-108 (2017), (2), 86. doi:10.21992/T93Q0F

[11] Elega, A. A., & Özad, B. E. (2017). Technologies and Second Language: Nigerian Students’ Adaptive Strategies to Cope with Language Barrier in Northern Cyprus. Journal Of International Students, 7(3), 486-498.

[12] Dunham, E., & Xaviera, F. (2014). Breaking the Language Barrier: Describing Chicano Archives with Bilingual Finding Aids. The American Archivist, (2), 499.

[13] Empowering rural women in Kenya with literacy skills using web 2.0: experiences of language & communication barriers in learning. (2010). ICIA 2010 Proceedings, 100.

[14] Andreas, B., & Oliver, B. (2013). LANGUAGE BARRIERS. Econometrica, (2), 781.

[15] Cyparsade, M., Auckloo, P., Belath, I., Dookhee, H., & Hurreeram, N. (2013). Beating the Language Barrier in Science Education: In-Service Educators’ Coping with Slow Learners in Mauritius. Science Education International, 24(4), 402-415.

[16] Landmark, A. D., Svennevig, J., Gerwing, J., & Gulbrandsen, P. (2017). Research Paper: Patient involvement and language barriers: Problems of agreement or understanding?. Patient Education And Counseling, 1001092-1102. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2016.12.006

About mathias sager

Independent researcher, artist, social entrepreneur, and leadership and strategy advisor I was born in Zurich in 1975 and grew up in Switzerland. Currently, I’m living in Tokyo. I love open-minded people everywhere and the passion to working relentlessly for developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all his work. I have extensive experience in leadership and management, organizational psychology research, and learning & development practice. I have worked as a teacher, a leadership trainer, as well as a senior manager responsible for client relationships, counseling, and virtual teams around the world. Also, I’m a social entrepreneur and serving as a strategy and leadership advisor in different ways. My goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for the people’s individual well-being and common good alike. Continuously learning himself and keen to help, I appreciate any questions or feedback you may have at any time. Please connect here on any social media, as well as per direct email goodthings@mathias-sager.com.
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8 Responses to Overcoming Language Barriers

  1. SoundFlyer says:

    Interesting article. I’m an ex IT man trying to expand my knowledge of French and German. Sometimes it’s all to easy to just use Google translate rather than slow down and think about the common meaning in various words and cultures. Do you think there would be a concomitant danger in ‘instant’ technical translations in your scenario, the health industry?

    • mathias sager says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience and the fantastic question. Seamless real-time translation would potentially remove “between-the-lines” meaning of culturally shaped and understood language, indeed. In healthcare, for example, this could lead to additional misunderstandings. However, technology and related glossaries will improve fast.
      Another thought is that if we are not over-relying so much on verbal communication anymore, the way could become open to learning to use the more universal non-verbal and energetic modes of communication that allow for even more precise expressions of human thoughts and emotions. This could even mean a next human evolutionary step as a more universal communication/way of connecting would create a stronger global/collective consciousness and therefore lead to more peace. That’s my dream!:-)

  2. Patty says:

    This reminds me of how the users of the language Esperanto hoped it would become the number one ‘World-wide-used’ language, instead of English, French and Spanish, because it should be fairly easy to learn.
    I think no matter the language, we also should try to stick to more ‘simple’ words, instead of using words mainstream neighbors can’t even begin to comprehend.

    • mathias sager says:

      I agree that simple language as an international environment adaptation is a good recommendation. On the other hand, language is crucial in expressing nuanced flavors, detailed distinctions, and innovative stimulation that ideally are supported by an as rich an accurate vocabulary as possible. Great discussion point, Patty. Thanks a lot for your many valuable inputs always!

      • Patty says:

        As always my pleasure Mathias! I get your point, however, there is so much more than verbal language, right? In addition, we are world-citizens, one language could help unite. It’s our own characteristics and perceptions what makes us unique…for those who are so (unnecessarily) afraid of losing their identity.

      • mathias sager says:

        I love the idea of a unifying language! I think first more global mindset is needed though.

      • Patty says:

        Well, you and me is a start 🙂

      • mathias sager says:

        Yes!:-). Actually, it is difficult to know how many more are needed to let the pendulum switch. So let’s not give up in promoting a global unifying mindset:-)!

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