Mind Your Language: How To Ensure No One Is Left Out
International Mother Language Day - 21 February
Celebrated every year on the 21st of February, International Mother Language Day's main purpose is to promote the awareness of language and cultural diversity all across the world. On this day in 1952, four young students were killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh for a language controversy involving Bengali vs Urdu. Since this unfortunate incident, this day is celebrated all over the world and it is a public holiday in Bangladesh.
Malaysia, a multicultural society
Malaysia is Asia's cultural melting pot and is known to be one of the most multicultural nations in southeast Asia. The mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures presents a unique challenge for companies looking to manage multiculturalism. The aim is to ensure that all these various cultural communities get along while maintaining their own original identities - including cultural behaviors and language / dialects.
In the working world, all these three ethnicities work together. The challenge is to ensure that everyone adapts to a common company language and culture at the workplace for transparency and open communication, in order to build trust.
How to avoid leaving someone out?
Many of us will have experienced something similar: feeling like a persona non grata simply because colleagues around us are speaking a language we don't understand. Try to recall how you felt when this happened. It can affect individuals negatively, which then means the team's ability to collaborate, coordinate, and communicate becomes a challenge.
In any interaction, meeting or event, speaking in a language which is understood by everyone is essential to ensure everyone feels included. This becomes even more relevant when someone cracks a joke and everyone laughs out loud. Make sure everyone understands it so that there are no uneasy feelings.
When discussing a topic, ensure that everyone in the room understands or can relate to what's being talked about so that no one feels left out.
Related article: One Language, One Team: Cultural Linguistics
Facing this issue: what to do after it happens?
Employees usually feel bad personally and professionally for being overlooked and this usually affects their motivation and may lead to a negative spiral of disengagement and lack of productivity - "Why bother doing my part for the team when I'm not part of the team?".
Although this issue may seem trivial, it can have a serious impact on employees' job satisfaction, performance, and happiness. It is advisable to have a face-to-face communication with the employee when a situation like this arises. It is the responsibility of the company's leaders or managers to raise these issues in a constructive manner.