I am the only foreigner in small IT company. The main language of communication is Finnish which I kinda know but it still is a bit of trouble to speak and understand it fluently.

I'm working on it, but meanwhile I feel that other people might perceive me a bit less smart because it often takes me a bit of time to understand what they say or reply to it. The problem is mainly in the language because what I need to do in my job I do well.

I just wonder if there's any method to not look stupid while I am gathering a perfect answer in my head.

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    Please don't accept an answer immediately. There will be more people writing up answers, and they are discouraged if you accept early. Wait at least a day, maybe someone else has better advice. – simbabque Feb 14 '17 at 10:42
  • Ok thanks for advice. I am still a bit new here, especially in terms of asking questions. – Alvis Feb 14 '17 at 10:44
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    You link a (perhaps longer than normal) pause to gather your thoughts or to process a conversation due to the language barrier to being perceived as stupid, but I think it's safe to assume that few people will make that connection and the answer to that question is rather trivial. Is that really what you wanted to ask or is it more like "What can I do to minimise the (perceived) impact a language barrier has on my performance?" – Lilienthal Feb 14 '17 at 12:07
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    If they thought you were stupid, they wouldn't have hired you... – keshlam Feb 14 '17 at 23:24
  • Intelligent people know the difference between lacking a language and lacking a brain. – Loren Pechtel Feb 15 '17 at 0:26

This might be obvious, but you can always ask them to clarify in English if you did not understand something. Not understanding fully has nothing to do with being stupid, and people generally know that.

When a company decides to hire an expat they know full well that there could be a language barrier, but you seem to be learning the language. That's great. You can talk to HR and ask if they would be willing to send you to an advanced class, as in-house training doesn't apply if you're the only foreigner. They knew there would be a bit of a language barrier and they still hired you, so there is a good chance they will do more to make you happy.

  • Thank you! I am almost sure that they understand that I can't yet speak perfect language, so most likely it's my own perception problem. At least my boss says I speak good enough. So I guess I just should stop feeling scared :) – Alvis Feb 14 '17 at 10:41
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    I can't think of a way of providing a better answer than this. If you can clearly demonstrate that you're not an idiot in English, people will forgive you ramping up your Finnish language skills. For anything that's critical, just communicate in English to get the job done. – Snow Feb 14 '17 at 11:40
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    If your boss says (in English) "you speak good enough" then he doesn't speak English well enough. – gnasher729 Feb 14 '17 at 13:30

I think the first answer is a good one, and it got my vote. I would add some additional advise as well.

Whatever assignment you are given, be sure to do it to the best of your ability and do it better than anyone else. In other words, deliver what is required of your manager and deliver it early if possible.

You can stand out as a solid resource by being the hardest worker. People notice who works hard and truly cares about their work and the company. This trait will overcome any sort of minor language barrier.

  • Why would he have to be the hardest worker? Not being stupid should be enough if he doesn't want people to think of him as stupid. – gnasher729 Feb 14 '17 at 13:29
  • Its related in that the real concern is how you are viewed by your superiors and co-workers. If you are the hardest worker, and get the most done, how could you be viewed as stupid? – Mister Positive Feb 14 '17 at 13:33
  • @MisterPositive: That's far easier than you think. "He's compensating". – MSalters Feb 15 '17 at 15:00
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    If everyone else has a beer in the pub, and you are still working, what will they think? That you are stupid. – gnasher729 Feb 16 '17 at 17:21

The only reason why they might think that you are stupid is because you are talking in bad Finnish. Well, some people would think that Stephen Hawking is extremely stupid. He's in a wheelchair. He doesn't talk properly. And he hasn't got a Nobel prize (yet).

It is a matter of perception, not of reality. You can change this easily be speaking in perfect English and switching to Finnish if someone doesn't understand. Now the perception is that they are stupid by not being able to understand you.

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