7 ways you can support non-native English-speaking team members

Ways you can support non-native English-speakers

7 ways you can support non-native English-speaking team members

There are many ways you can support non-native English speakers at work. In today’s diverse workplaces, it is essential for us to foster inclusivity to achieve effective collaboration. Non-native English speakers face unique challenges when it comes to language proficiency and cultural differences, which can impact their ability to fully contribute and succeed within the team. In particular, by implementing supportive strategies, you can create an environment where every team member feels valued and empowered to express their ideas and perspectives. Here we will explore seven practical ways to support non-native English-speaking team members.

1) How leaders can build a psychologically safe environment 

It is very important to create a psychologically safe environment, build trust, and have open communication, along with meaningful collaboration. When creating an environment like this, there are several considerations to take into account.

Safe work environment

Here are some examples of how to support non-native English speakers:

⇒ Encourage individuals to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or negative consequences.

⇒ Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and encourage a growth mindset among team members.

⇒ Provide constructive feedback that focuses on behaviours and outcomes, promoting growth and development.

⇒ Empower individuals with autonomy and ownership of their work.

Lead by example, and demonstrate vulnerability, openness, and inclusivity. Establish clear expectations and roles, reducing ambiguity and promoting a sense of security. Celebrate successes and create an atmosphere where failures are viewed as stepping-stones to improvement. Also, regularly assess team dynamics, gather feedback, and address any issues promptly. Prioritising trust, communication, collaboration, and growth, can create a psychologically safe environment where individuals feel supported, valued, and comfortable expressing themselves openly.

2) Establish communication strategies and guidelines for team members

Ensure that communication within the team is clear and concise. Use plain language, avoid jargon or complex terminology, and encourage team members to ask questions or seek clarification when needed. Notably, it is important to encourage participation and create a welcoming environment where non-native English speakers feel comfortable participating in discussions, meetings, and presentations. Support their involvement and ensure that their contributions are valued and acknowledged.


Depending on the situation, mentoring could be a consideration. Pair non-native English speakers with native English speakers or team members who are proficient in the language. Using this type of mentorship or buddy system can provide additional support, guidance, and opportunities for language practice.

3) Use Global English – meet non-native speakers of English in the middle

Support non-native English-speaking team members by using Global English, a simplified and neutral form of English that aims to bridge language barriers. Recognise that idioms and cultural nuances in standard English can be challenging to translate and understand.

Global English

Additionally, encourage open communication and acknowledge the difficulty non-native English speakers may face. Also, meet them in the middle by using clear and concise language, avoiding jargon and complex terminology.

A supportive environment to support non-native English speakers

Create a supportive environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking for clarification. Emphasise the importance of understanding and being understood, promoting a culture of empathy and inclusion. Similarly, you can better support non-native English-speaking team members by recognising the challenges faced and using Global English as a common language, allowing for effective communication within the team.

4) Promote cultural awareness for both native and non-native English speakers

Promote cultural sensitivity within the team to further inclusivity. Recognise and value the diverse cultural backgrounds, customs, and communication styles of team members. Also, create an atmosphere of learning and mutual respect, where individuals realise and appreciate that there are different belief and value systems between cultures. What’s more, facilitating opportunities for team members to share their cultural experiences, traditions, and perspectives, leads to cross-cultural understanding.

Likewise, encourage open-mindedness and curiosity, allowing team members to learn from one another’s cultures. Emphasise the importance of empathy and respect for diverse viewpoints. In fact, fostering a culturally sensitive environment creates a space where everyone feels valued, understood, and able to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

5) Pronounce names correctly

Mispronouncing names may seem like a simple oversight, but it can have a significant impact on non-native English speakers. Our names connect us to our homes, cultures, and families, and consistently mispronouncing them sends a message that we are not valued or understood. In response, individuals may feel they have to modify their names to make them sound ‘English’. However, this compromises their sense of identity and cultural heritage.

mispronouncing names

Be aware of the impact

Most native English speakers are unaware of the impact this has on non-native English speakers. Promoting cultural awareness in companies results in correctly pronouncing individuals’ names. Not only does this show respect but also contributes to establishing an inclusive and respectful environment. Moreover, taking the initiative to learn and pronounce names accurately demonstrates a genuine commitment to recognising and valuing diverse identities. Besides, it also signifies a willingness to bridge linguistic and cultural gaps, fostering open communication.

6) Practise active listening

While interacting with non-native English speakers, prioritise active listening. Be patient, attentive and understanding and give them the space and time to express their thoughts fully. Also, encourage them to share their perspectives without interruption. Avoid taking offense where none is intended, as cultural differences may affect communication. Above all, take a moment to reflect before reacting to what is being said.

Equally important, stay open-minded and considerate and recognise that language barriers may impact clarity or tone. Remember that misunderstandings can arise, so seek clarification when needed. Additionally, by practising active listening, you can create an environment where non-native English speakers feel respected, valued, and supported in sharing their ideas.

7) Consider providing extra support

To provide support for non-native English speakers, consider implementing the following approaches:

Provide written materials etc:

For example, when conveying important information or instructions, offer written materials that are concise, clear and easily understandable. This allows non-native English speakers to review and grasp the content at their own pace, minimising the risk of missing essential details.

In addition, with lower-level users of English, it is useful to include visual aids such as images, infographics, maps not forgetting realia. Of course, gestures also go a long way in communication too.

Offer language training:

Extend language training programs or resources tailored specifically for non-native English speakers. This can encompass a variety of options such as language classes, online resources, or language exchange applications. Therefore, actively investing in their language development empowers them to enhance their communication skills, boosting their confidence and overall effectiveness in the workplace.

As a result, you show that you acknowledge and support non-native English speakers’ unique development needs and challenges. This support demonstrates a commitment by the company to their professional development and well-being.

Support non-native English speakers

As a supportive teammate or leader, taking the time to learn and pronounce names correctly demonstrates care, respect, and inclusivity. It shows that you acknowledge the different backgrounds of your team members. Furthermore, by correctly pronouncing names, we create an environment where everyone feels valued, appreciated, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to the workplace.


Finally, this post has shown some easy-to-implement practical ways to support non-native English speakers in our teams. From promoting cultural sensitivity to providing language resources, these approaches aim to bridge communication gaps, enhance understanding, and create a more inclusive work environment. So, let’s celebrate cultural differences and experience the positive effect it has on entire teams and companies alike.

To support non-native English speakers, here is some of the training we offer:

+ Leading Multicultural Teams

+ Customised Business English Training

Contact us for further information.


Authored by Fiona McLoughlin, AllTalk Training.

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