By: Maria Fernanda Echeto On: August 14, 2013 In: JEG Musings Comments: 0

“It is not the same when you translate it” is a statement often heard when someone from a different culture tells a joke. That is one of the first things I noticed when I came to live in the United States. In my native country, Venezuela, I was always the person to tell a joke to get a laugh out of my family members or friends, but when I started sharing the same jokes here I thought “am I even funny anymore?” I felt that I had been a great story teller and all of the sudden lost my “secret weapon.”

Communicating with someone from a different cultural background definitely takes time and commitment so both parties can “meet in the middle” to reach a shared understanding on any topic.  My husband and I have been together for 14 years and for 10 of those years I have worked in public relations. I still have difficulty trying to tell him what I do even after all the time we have been together.  The reality is that this type of problem actually occurs daily in all our communities as people from different cultures, experiences, background and countries strive to communicate with each other. This may sound like an unmanageable task, but there are some basics to remember whether you are telling a joke or delivering a message from an organization.

Here are three tips to remember when communicating to diverse audiences:

1. A simple translation just won’t do

Literal translations are sometimes impossible to understand. They may leave your audience confused or give them the idea that you didn’t try hard enough or don’t understand them. To connect with diverse audiences, you need to dedicate your time to learning what makes them different.  Having a bilingual team will help compare different perspectives and cultural preferences. It’s best to use common phrases or words so the information can be easily understood. Even if you are not writing in their native language, there are ways to incorporate words that will be easy to understand.  

2.  Know and study your audience

Begin to identify the similarities and differences of your audience to learn who they are. You may realize that within your target audience, there are sub audiences that have their own individual needs.  For example, a Hispanic millennial may have different attitudes and behaviors than a 60 year-old. Pay attention to these needs. Social media is a great tool to study how people interact. What motivates them? What will make them want to read your story? What language do they speak? Where did they grow up? Where can you reach them?

3. Tell them stories you would want to tell your own family

Messages focused on community and family values carry a strong appeal. Reaching diverse audiences in their communities will have a large impact. If you can create a story that will make an individual call their relative to relay the information, you have done your job as a communicator. Storylines that connect with people will stay with them long after they have put down the paper or turned off their computer.

We live in a society that is only becoming more diverse and familiarity with multicultural audiences will be increasingly important. Knowing how to communicate effectively to everyone, regardless of cultural differences, is an invaluable asset that in the end will make it easier for all people to connect to those around them.

He Dicho!

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