When Your New Employee Doesn’t Speak Your Language

Photo by Matthias Derksen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-translator-in-a-yellow-hoodie-holding-a-placard-11333421/

Being a contractor means meeting deadlines and producing high quality work under some of the hardest imaginable conditions.

One common issue, especially in this era of unprecedented low unemployment, is finding enough workers to meet demands and deadlines. Across the country this increasingly means hiring workers in a very short time frame, or even day or short-term laborers with little formal work experience. Some not only lack a resume, they don’t even have a tool belt.

But the work must get done. And so while you might prefer to hire people who speak English, the situation might mean you will have to choose whatever laborers are available. Fortunately, language differences do not mean that they haven’t done the work before and don’t work hard. You might have found your next great employee – but you won’t know until the project gets donte.

Here are some tips for dealing with new employees when you don’t speak the same language.

  1. Hire one or more bi-lingual employees.

Your first resource in dealing with an employee who does not speak English (or whatever language you speak) is a bi-lingual employee. This person can help speed up the training and language acquisition process, and should be around to help with complex questions. For instance, even if you each have some knowledge of each other’s language, details around building codes, measurements, and other expectations can’t be left to guesses and approximations.

  1. Hire one or more bilingual day laborers.

You can’t control whether you have a bilingual employee. But chances are, if you’re hiring temporary labor, you can find one or two people who are stronger in English than you are in Spanish or whatever the target language is.

And if you don’t have a bilingual day laborer, on to solution 3.

  1. Use Google Translate or some other translation app

When a bilingual employee or short-term hire is not available, the next best option is to use a translation app. While these are imperfect solutions, they can offer enough support to convey key ideas and get the job done. Google translate can be surprisingly technical and has found use in a lot of technical fields related to building, design, engineering, and more.

It is important that you remember that speaking different languages doesn’t make you or the employee dumb – it just means there will be barriers to communication and the occasional mistake. Being patient might bring you a dedicated and loyal worker.