By Berlitz



Effective communication is key to a successful collaboration within any team, whether it operates in-office or remotely, locally or internationally. However, communicating across a screen can significantly limit our ability to understand each other effectively, which has a negative effect on productivity and collaboration.

According to a survey by Forbes Advisor, 54% of remote workers surveyed felt that poor communication hindered their trust in leadership, while 52% reported a loss of trust in their team. These findings prove the importance of effective communication in remote collaboration.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to effectively use language to reinforce remote collaboration across international teams.

The role of language in remote collaboration

In an in-person environment, communication extends beyond words. When collaborating face-to-face, we communicate via non-verbal cues like body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and situational context.

In fact, research by behavioural psychologist Dr Albert Mehrabian found that words are only 7% of all communication, while tone of voice constitutes 38% and body language 55%. Yet in a virtual setting, these non-verbal cues become notably challenging to perceive and interpret. That’s why the role of language becomes much more crucial in remote collaboration. As non-verbal cues are reduced to a minimum, the words we use become our sole means of communication and can significantly impact team collaboration and morale.

Therefore, virtual interactions call for heightened awareness of how our words may be perceived by others, as there’s often less opportunity for real-time clarification or course correction.

The role of language in international teams

Aside from the challenges of communication in a virtual setting, more hurdles arise when dealing with an international team. When team members come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, language can quickly become a barrier that hinders collaboration, causes conflicts, and creates misunderstandings.

That’s because, in international teams, communication includes cultural differences, idiomatic expressions and ways of expressing ideas, which can make understanding each other more difficult.

In addition, team members who aren’t fluent in the team’s primary language can struggle to participate fully, affecting how well the team works together.

Tips for effectively using language to strengthen collaboration across remote and international teams

When working in a remote setting with an international team, it’s important to address communication challenges before misunderstandings arise and the team morale collapses.

Here are five subtle tips you can implement when communicating with your international team in a remote setting to strengthen collaboration and foster a positive working environment.

Provide language training for employees

Communicating with international team members can result in significant challenges. For instance, one team member may misinterpret an important instruction because of a language barrier, while another team member may feel left out of discussions because they struggle to express themselves clearly in English.

These situations not only slow down progress but can also cause tension and frustration among team members, leading to inefficient collaboration.

The best solution to overcome these language barriers and enhance team communication is to provide language training for employees. Every company’s language needs are different, so it’s essential to find a language school that provides training that aligns with your requirements and instructors who understand your company culture.

Implement modern digital communication tools

The digital communication tools you use when collaborating remotely can significantly impact the effectiveness of communication. Slack’s Future of Work survey found that only 31% of employees express being ‘extremely satisfied’ with their existing work communication tools, while 76% wish for better communication tools.

This shows that companies should put more focus on finding the right communication tools to enhance remote collaboration.

Most organisations turn to the obvious tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Slack. But aside from these, there’s a plethora of more advanced tools that align with different communication needs for international teams, such as Miro for brainstorming, Ideanote for idea collection, or Flock for instant messaging.

Shift to a more empathetic tone of voice

The way you phrase things sets the tone for the entire team dynamic. Especially if you’re holding a position of authority in your team and you’re in charge of delegating tasks, you must be careful not to come off as too harsh or commanding, as it may hinder your team’s positive and collaborative spirit.

Instead, aim for a more empathetic tone that fosters understanding, trust, and openness among team members. To get your message across and inspire a positive reaction from your team, phrase instructions or feedback in a way that acknowledges your team’s efforts and challenges while also providing clear direction and support.

In addition, provide training to your employees on how to implement empathy in communication to avoid internal conflicts between team members.

Make sure your language is inclusive

An international team is composed of people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and customs. When communicating, it’s easy to unintentionally use language or expressions that may alienate or exclude certain team members, which may lead to internal conflicts, decreased team morale, and poor collaboration.

To avoid this, it’s important to use inclusive workplace language that respects and acknowledges the diversity within your team. This means avoiding culturally specific idioms or references that may not be understood by everyone. Instead, opt for clear and universally understandable language.

What’s more, be especially careful with your word choice and assumptions about your team members.

Use words of affirmation

When employees feel appreciated and valued, they tend to be more engaged and collaborate better as part of the team. One way you can achieve the feeling of appreciation among your team is by implementing words of affirmation into your communication.

In fact, words of affirmation are one of the 5 languages of appreciation mentioned in Dr Gary Chapman’s and Dr Paul White’s book 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Words of affirmation are subtle words and phrases you can use to lift your team’s spirit, such as “Well done!” “Good job,” or “I appreciate your hard work on this project.” Doing so can help foster a positive and supportive work environment where team members feel valued and motivated to excel, enhancing collaboration.

Language in the workplace Is key to successful collaboration

The language you use in the workplace can either enhance or hinder collaboration across remote and international teams. Implementing effective communication strategies is key to promoting transparent collaboration and avoiding misunderstandings, conflicts, and decreased employee engagement.

With subtle changes in the way you express yourself, you can foster a sense of belonging, inclusivity, and shared motivation within your team, building stronger relationships and connections.

At Berlitz, we offer a wide range of language training solutions tailored to your company’s needs. From self-paced online courses to immersion experiences, we have everything you need to empower your employees with practical language skills. With us, your employees will receive the practical language training they need to enhance remote collaboration and communication.