Skip to main content

Quick thoughts of working in a multilingual team

I've been working as a part of international team for about six months now. By international team I don't mean that the team is located in two or more locations but that the team consists of people of different nationalities and therefore different languages. I thought I'd write down my thoughts on how that's working out.

The team 


About half of the team are from Finland and half from India. As the mother tongue of the team members varies the teams common language is english and it works out just fine most of the time. The language barrier does bring it's own challenges, here's a few that I have noticed or been informed of.

Challenge with conversations


Mostly out team struggles when it comes to ad-hoc conversations on implementation details or architectural decisions when we, the finnish team members, start to talk about it, in finnish, and thus leaving half of the team out of opportunity to join the conversation just because were talking in finnish and they have no idea what we're talking about.
This could be resolved by speaking only english when the topic is work related but to me that feels unnatural. Because it feels unnatural to speak english to another finnish speaking person it's probably why it's also so hard to remember that we should be speaking english.

Challenge of understanding


Another thing that happens occasionally is misunderstanding. Everybody is speaking english that no one speaks for a mother tongue sometimes leads to situation where a message might get misunderstood at the start or along the way as it passes from person to person.
It's not a huge problem as we tend to keep our individual tasks small but it does create some extra work in a form of refactoring or rewriting code. This does happen also when people have the same mother tongue but not as often.

Conclusion


Overall I don't see big problems working in a multilingual team but this is my first time as it probably is for some of the other team members also but it does bring some challenges. Hopefully we'll get better at it over time.
At least the next time I join a multilingual team I'll have a better idea what to expect and hopefully some solutions on how to over come or reduce the challenges.

Popular posts from this blog

Sharing to help myself

It's been a while since my last post but I have a good excuse. I've been in a new customer project (well new for me) for two months now and have absorbed a lot of new information on the technology stack and the project itself. This time I'll be sharing a short post about sharing code and how it can help the one who's sharing the code. I'll be giving a real life example of how it happened to me. My story Back when I was implementing first version of my simple-todo REST-service I used Scala and Play framework for the service and specs2 for testing the implementation. Since then I've done a few other implementations of the service but I've continued to use specs2 as a testing framework. I wrote about my implementation and shared the post through various services and as a result someone forked my work and gave me some pointers on how I could improve my tests. That someone was Eric Torreborre  the man behind specs2 framework. I didn't take his ref

Simple code: Readability

Readability, understandability, two key incredients of great code. Easier said than done, right? What one person finds easy to read and understand another one finds incomprehensible. This is especially true when programmers have different levels of understanding on various subjects e.g. object oriented vs. functional or Node.js vs. Java. Even though there are obvious differences between paradigms and programming ecosystems there are some common conventions and ways to lower the barrier. Different approaches It's natural that in programming things happen sequentally e.g. you can have a list of objects and you need to do various things to the list like filter some values out and count a sum of the remaining objects based on some property. With the given list const stories = [   {name: "authentication", points: 43},   {name: "profile page", points: 11},   {name: "shopping cart", points: 24},   {name: "shopping history", points: 15},   {name: &qu

Simple code: Immutability

Immutability is a special thing that in my mind deserves a short explanation and praise. If you're familiar with functional programming you surely recognice the concept of immutability because it's a key ingredient of the paradigm. In the world of object oriented programming it's not as used and as easy to use approach but there are ways to incorporate immutability to parts of the code and I strongly suggest you to do so. Quick intro to immutablity The basic idea of immutability is unchangeable data.  Lets take a example. We have a need to modify a object's property but because the object is immutable we can't just change value but instead we make a copy of the object and while making the copy we provide the new value for the copy. In code it looks something like this. val pencil = Product(name = "Pencil", category = "Office supply") val blackMarker = pencil.copy(name = "Black marker") The same idea can be applied in functions and metho