She was upset that two colleagues were speaking together in their first language in the tearoom, at lunch. Diane walked in on their conversation, they paused and then carried on. 'It was so rude', she said, I felt excluded'.
Really? She wasn't part of their conversation and Diane agreed that she had no grounds for believing that they were talking about her.
There are many reasons why we go back to first language. It's our default position. It enables us to talk about feelings and opinions, to relate humour, to use the nuances of language that are so much easier in our mother tongue. We are most comfortable in the familiarity of language that allows us to fully express our culture and our identity.
If that language use is not affecting health & safety, or productivity, or cost, or legality, then what's the issue? Why should speaking a different language be any more divisive than what we eat or wear, or what we do at the weekend? If the difference doesn't matter, then don't let it matter.
What to do?
- Leave your mistrust behind
- Learn to be comfortable with not knowing what's being said
- Get curious about the language and culture of others
Supporting diverse, inclusive workplaces