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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 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