Working Online: Language Differences Across the Net

Working OnlineWhen working online, you may find yourself in a conversation that doesn’t quite make sense. How are you supposed to communicate?  While there are some Internet terms that are becoming universal across all languages such as tweeting, country specific expressions still exist. Even while browsing the Internet, you may come across sayings that mean totally different things in other parts of the World. Because of this, understanding everything that is said when working virtually with people from other countries can be a challenge. Here are three specific challenges English speaking Internet users may face.


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Because the Internet can be quite informal at times, it is common to see slang included in forum, blog posts and social networking. Slang is a common way of speaking that often defies regular definition or even rules of grammar. The sayings can relate to many topics, and are often based on popular culture. Understanding the slang of a particular language is an important aspect of being truly fluent. In a business setting, slang should be avoided, especially when working with those from a different culture.  This is because even when everyone is supposedly speaking the same language, the use of slang can cause misunderstanding.

British versus American

The sun never sets on the British Empire, and as a result their language can be heard and read throughout the world. Unfortunately for Americans, their English has been altered with many other cultures. The result is a language that is significantly different in syntax, grammar and sayings. Most residents of the two countries can understand each other when talking, but when writing, it is easy to be taken the wrong way.

When working with someone who speaks a different form of English, it is important to clarify anything that doesn’t make sense. They may be intending to mean one thing, while you understand it as another. Many times, a simple question will end unnecessary confusion. You may even foster cross cultural communication.

All other Countries

There are many countries that speak and write a form of English that may be different than American and British English. These countries include India, the Philippines, Australia, South Africa and Canada. While the differences between their English and that of America or the UK may be subtle, there are still differences. When working with someone from these countries, you should be mindful of any possible misunderstandings and do your best to ask questions.

Working online can pose many challenges in communication. It is therefore important to ask questions whenever something is not clear. Because it is often difficult to read context with just written word, sometimes a video chat or pictures can help clarify things that don’t immediately make sense. Most people understand that the Internet is used by millions of people speaking many different languages. Thankfully, most are willing to spend a little time to make sure that they are understood correctly.

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