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Overcoming language barriers in the construction industry

by Darren
Overcoming language barriers Jnl 1 16

Good communication in a local language is key to safety and productivity in the construction industry.

According to Aaron Bigmore, Senior Project Manager for pan-African property and construction solutions company Profica, good communication in a local language is key to safety and productivity in the construction industry. “If a team is unable to communicate effectively with one another in a potentially hazardous construction environment, there could be serious health and safety ramifications,” he emphasises. “Better communication also greatly enhances productivity.”

Aaron goes on to say that when Profica goes into a country for the first time, they invest in upskilling the community, hiring local consultants that have an excellent understanding of the area and training local contractors to meet international standards. To address language barriers, the company strives to provide skilled project managers that are fluent in the lingua franca of the country they are operating in, often French. Meetings are conducted in both English and French, to make the communication process as smooth as possible.

“It is important for all project managers to be conscious of the language preferences and cultural differences of the workforce so that standards are met,” Aaron continues. “Communication should be tailored so that all workers understand the hazards and risks presented on their site, and what is required of contractors.”

According to Aaron, one of the best methods to employ in ensuring good communication is a face-to-face discussion and demonstration with clients, the professional team and contractors. This method is effective in communicating across different languages and also allows for feedback, interaction and for misunderstandings to be identified and addressed immediately. Written material in the local language is also effective and should be clear, concise and include visual aids to make understanding easier.

“I have worked and travelled all over the world and there is only one way to do a project, and that’s from the ground up,” he continues. “The real difference lies in how it is managed. When all stakeholders, from the client to the professional team and contractors, can communicate in a language they understand well and know what is expected of them, they are more productive, accidents can be avoided and projects run smoothly.”

“One also needs to understand the context, culture and systems in the project environment in which one is operating in order to deliver a project successfully,” says Thierry Giannone, one of Profica’s bilingual Directors. “Part of the reason for working with local partners is having the ability to tap into the local knowledge base and local processes and procedures.”

Both Aaron and Thierry believe that the company’s expertise and bilingual team make Profica a good choice for a project in French-speaking African countries such as Cameroon, Chad, DRC and the Ivory Coast.

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