The Challenges of English in the Workplace

Nova Scotians are outgoing and friendly and love to make small talk at work, but what if you come from a country where this isn’t the norm? What about technical jargon and expressions that you don’t understand? You feel like a fish out of water!

Choosing to move and then adapting to life in a new country is challenging. Finding employment, housing, and establishing yourself in a community are just a few of the first big considerations you face upon arrival. When you find work, there are more challenges still – you need to adapt to a new business culture, learn the workplace etiquette, and adjust to the job specific language.

Language issues and misunderstanding social cues can affect your self confidence – even if you have years of experience in your field. Support is essential to all immigrants, regardless of their language abilities. In fact, most of the time language is not the major stumbling block; cultural differences cause most misunderstandings with new colleagues. And, language too has an entire culture built around it. For example, would you say “give me that pen” or “would you mind passing me that pen?” While the meaning of the words is the same, what you say will make the difference between seeming rude or impatient, and getting what you ask for.

Canadians typically greet each other with “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” and the usual response is “Fine, thanks.” If you are unaware of this cultural norm, you may think you are expected to talk about how you are actually feeling, and when you answer you may get some strange looks! There are many hidden cultural and social cues that are difficult to pick up on when you settle in a new place. It takes time to adapt to both your new surroundings and your new workplace.

It helps to have someone to talk to – whether that be a mentor or through a program like English in the Workplace (EWP). EWP is a free language and communication training program that supports employees within their work environment.

Paulina is an aqua fitness instructor in the Halifax area. She has lived and worked in Nova Scotia for a couple years – she recently started taking English in the Workplace to improve her accuracy in communication when teaching fitness classes. To understand what Paulina’s learning needs were, her instructor got in the pool with her and participated in her fitness class. She was then able to tailor the Paulina’s EWP classes to ensure she gets the help she needs to be successful. Each profession requires a different learning plan, and each student learns differently. English in the Workplace provides personalized plan to help you reach your communication goals.