Every venue confronts these issues from time to time in the course of doing business and striving for clarity of communication. While it is a small price to pay for the benefits of cultural diversity, it can be a high price to pay when both parties fail to clarify, double-check and (in extreme cases) engage a competent interpreter.
Interpreting what an individual means in their language – or their attempt to clarify in their second language – is very different than simply translating words.
In the field of interior design (commercial or residential), conflicts can arise concerning communication about the elements of color, light, textures and other subtle impressions. This is because choices and decisions in those areas involve feelings, senses, images and other concepts that contain “descriptive departures” from the formal language. (And, that is true in all cultures.) Concepts of quantity, depth and other relationship constructs have versions of expression within each specific language that are idiomatic –that is, they reflect their culture’s vernacular or “native” style.
Within one language, there may be multiple “dialects” that relate to specific areas of that country or region; learning the formal version of the language won’t solve all the problems!
It takes patience and a mutual commitment for clarity to successfully move through the complexities of a project when there are language – and therefore, semantic – differences.
It is wise to diplomatically address this factor at the front end of your project when you recognize there may be challenges. Because of the cultural diversity of our local (and nationwide) communities, interpreters are readily available when needed. Most colleges and universities can make connections for you. So, you don’t need to hesitate to contact design professionals for help with your project -- simply because you believe you may not be able to communicate clearly due to English being your second language.
Most of us have had the privilege of working with clients from many cultures, and we all grow with the experience and the enjoyment of designing environments with a client’s native culture in mind.
Almost everywhere that you see quality design, you see reflections of our cultural diversity. Language immersion is one of the challenges we face in order to successfully communicate our diversity, in creative ways, while developing our interior environments.
Robert Boccabella, B.F.A., Certified Interior Designer
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Collaboration & Writing: Ms. Zoe Tummillo