Language barrier is a common communication challenge especially when the Helper is fresh in Singapore. It is usually one of the few conflicts starter. It either make or break an employment relationship. Hence, time and efforts are needed to work on ways to understand one another and bridge communication gaps. Here are a few suggestions in overcoming the communication barrier.

  1. Use Simple Language
    Employer should get in the habit of using plain language whenever possible. Your Helper may have difficulties understanding full and long sentences. Instead of saying “Can you get me a glass of ice water from the refrigerator?” Try “Give me cold water.” Short and simple sentences with relevant key words are a lot easier for your helper to understand. If she didn’t do it correctly, be patient and guide her by repeating what you said and show her how to get it done correctly.

  2. Download Translation App
    VoiceTra by NICT is one of the best language translation mobile App we have tested. It is available for both iOS and Android platform. VoiceTra is a speech translation app that translates your speech into different languages. When your Helper does not understand or relate to what you are saying, use this translator to assist you.

  3. Learn simple spoken English on Youtube
    Allow your helper to learn basic English on Youtube. Search keywords such as Burmese to english speaking or Indonesia to english speaking. Some offer rather comprehensive courses while others focus on a specific aspect of language learning. This is quite an effective way to learn English via their native language.

Final Thoughts. Language barriers, like all barriers to communication, can be frustrating. They require patience, understanding, and conscientiousness. Ensure that when you or your helper are struggling to communicate that you never raise your voice or over-enunciate. Talk slower instead of louder, clearly instead of forcefully. 

And remember, when your helper is working through a language hurdle, it has nothing to do with her actual intelligence or ability to grasp the concept behind what you’re trying to say. We do have some employers who started calling them names and eventually, the Helpers quit their job. So, ideally is to continue to speak proper (but simple) English as you search for common ground, so she can learn how to understand correctly, too. Finally, keep in mind that visuals do help a lot. Whenever it is possible, try demonstrating instructions while describing them.