From Winks to Waves: Tips to Bridge Language Gaps

So, you ask your English-speaking colleague to wink when you meet her for the first time.

She’s a bit confused, but says nothing. 

When you meet, she winks—and now you’re confused. 

You expected her to wave.

Ah, now you understand. The German word ‘winken‘ isn’t ‘to wink‘ in English. It’s ‘to wave.’ ‘To wink‘ is ‘zwinkern.’ 

You won’t make that mistake ever again, will you?

Although this little mix-up may seem harmless, such misunderstandings could have unpleasant consequences in certain situations. 

So, it’s time for some tips to improve our intercultural communication skills:

👉 Tip 1: Invest time in learning the language of your counterpart or at least its most basic phrases and expressions. Google Translate or DeepL may be helpful tools, but they can’t replace the real understanding of language nuances and cultural contexts.

👉 Tip 2: Use interactive language learning programs or apps that focus on commonly used phrases. They often provide information about common linguistic pitfalls and how to avoid them!

👉 Tip 3: Be open to making mistakes! After all, they are the best teachers. Learn from your mistakes, laugh about them—and keep going.

Don’t worry! Each of us has experienced an embarrassing slip-up in a professional—or even personal—context at some point. And believe me, it’s completely normal!

Remember: Our goal is to communicate and connect with others—and that takes practice and patience.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a funny story about a misunderstanding due to a language barrier to share?

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Foto Christine Sparks

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