Tips for Training Non-English Speaking Employees

Tips for Training Non-English Speaking Employees

Right now, we’re in the middle of a labor shortage. With more jobs than workers, municipalities and companies are increasingly willing to hire anyone who’ll work hard. In some cases, that might mean onboarding new employees who are eager and qualified, but not necessarily proficient in English.

Whether you’re working with a complete non-English speaker or someone who is still working on learning English, there are a few simple steps and strategies you can use to ensure a healthy, efficient team dynamic.

Find a bilingual instructor

When it comes to training your new hires, you really can’t afford significant communication lapses. This is especially true when it comes to health and safety protocols. In fact, if you leave any ambiguity in the way health and safety measures are conveyed, you could be exposing the whole organization to considerable risk.

One way to avoid all of this is to hire a bilingual instructor to come handle onboarding and team training. And if you can’t find (or can’t afford) a bilingual instructor, see if you have a bilingual employee who can provide some basic translation services. Offer some incentives for employees willing to step up and help in this way; even something like a gift card may be sufficient.

Be straightforward

When communicating with non-English speakers, the last thing you need is to get muddled in technical language and jargon. Simplicity is the best approach. Keep directions as short and to the point, and try to use basic language. Visual aids and diagrams may also be helpful as you communicate certain processes or procedures.

Seek bilingual resources

When it comes to specific policies, you’re probably going to have to generate training materials. But for more universal topics — including OSHA guidelines and job site safety stipulations — you should be able to find bilingual or non-English training materials with relative ease. Posters, videos and training manuals can be especially helpful.

Instruct via demonstration

Often, the best way to teach someone isn’t through explanation, but through demonstration. For example, if you need to instruct a new hire on the best way to inspect a pipeline or use a particular piece of equipment, your best option is to do it yourself. You may even have new hires shadow experienced employees for a day, allowing them to witness important processes.

Translate documents

In a leadership role, you are obligated to make a good-faith effort to communicate with employees, regardless of their linguistic ability. This means providing written notice of important workplace policies, such as disciplinary practices or paid-time-off policies. You may have all of this information included in an employee handbook. You’ll likely want to hire a translation service to help you put that handbook into language your employee can understand, ensuring there is no lack of clarity.

With these tips, you can overcome any communication barriers that exist between you and your employees, in essence opening up a whole new world of qualified talents.

About the author: Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at


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