Working with ESL Clients

Working with ESL clients can be an enjoyable, cultural experience

Working with ESL Clients

Melina Druga
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Working with clients for whom English is a second language (ESL) can be a challenge, no matter your niche. It doesn’t mean, however, you need to turn away a client because of a language barrier. It just means you need to adjust your approach.

Working with ESL clients can be an enjoyable, cultural experience
Working with ESL clients can be an enjoyable, cultural experience

Working with ESL clients sometimes can be daunting. There can be miscommunication and misunderstandings. Email may be hard to comprehend because of unfamiliar wording, and phone calls can be challenging because the ear may not be attuned to an accent. In addition, there can be cultural and work ethic differences.

English is the Dominate Web Language

Over the years, I have worked with a number of ESL clients. They have used my skills as a native English speaker to rewrite their copy and ghostwrite articles. The last thing these clients wanted was for their websites to give away the fact they were not English natives and turn off customers.

Their cause for concern is very real.  English is the dominate language on the internet.  In 2017, English was used by 1.05 billion web users, and has grown 647.9 percent since 2000.

Non-native English speakers’ writing often is easy to spot.  It contains:

  • Incorrect work usage
  • Words in incorrect sentence order
  • Incorrect grammar
  • Unknown cultural references or missed cultural references

Some of my clients also were concerned about unintentionally insulting the reader by saying the wrong thing.

How I Serve The ESL Niche

For the most part, I have found working with ESL clients be rewarding.  The clients appreciate skilled writing and editing, and express their gratitude.

So how do I serve ESL clients?

  • I ask plenty of questions and don’t assume the client understands me or that I understand the client’s expectations.
  • When reading email and other written correspondence, I read through it more than once. A meaning that wasn’t clear during the initial read might become clearer based on context clues. If not, I ask.
  • During telephone conversations or face-to-face meetings, I summarize what the client has said, then ask if I have understood correctly. This is a lot less rude than interrupting someone while he is speaking to ask for clarifications.
  • I understand that a client’s expectations might be different from native English speaker’s and adapt.

Have you ever worked with an ESL client or customer? What was your experience?

Updated: 25 June 2018

Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.

4 thoughts on “Working with ESL Clients

  1. I think much of the advice you give in the bullet points at the end of your article could be useful for any client one might do business with. I can see how it would be especially helpful when working with non-native English speakers, though. Thank you for the tips.

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