Monday, November 13, 2017


Be sure to express your thoughts in a way that Americans will readily grasp, because different cultures conceptualize ideas in different ways. Today we’ll address two variations of the European pattern we discussed last time. Specifically, these would apply to Russians and Latin Americans.

You’ll recall that the European pattern is like an upside-down version of the standard American outline form. Instead of stating the point first –as Americans normally do—the European pattern builds to that point by first making preparatory comments, such as offering historical background, citing the comments of experts, and giving supporting statistics. This may bore or confuse the American listener, who can feel lost, confused or annoyed at an “effete” speaker who loves the sound of his own voice!

The Russian pattern is exactly the same except not as smooth or clear. Like the European speaker, the Russian will also pursue a litany of background information, but it will seem disjointed, even rambling to the American listener. This lack of connection is due to Russian syntax and a lack of articles in the language. Russians must remember to use articles when required, to give their English sentences a smooth continuity. And they should practice a variety of connecting phrases (in order to, so that, as a result, conversely and so forth) to establish a clear relationship of one sentence to another.

The Latin American mindset incorporates respectful personal references into most communication exchanges. So like the European model that precedes its point with supporting information, the Latin pattern may first make polite social references or add flowery phrases (if you don’t mind my saying so, let me take a moment to mention, with your permission, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about, etc.) before saying something substantive. This approach is a distraction for an American listener who is inclined to see this as superficial when, at least at work, the American would prefer to be direct and “get right to the point and down to business.” (It works both ways, of course: to Latin Americans, an American may seem too direct, even rude and self-centered.)

So again remember how the wrong approach can clash with another culture, causing confusion or misunderstanding. Tailor your style to your listener. And understand the tendencies of your own culture to interfere with that goal.