Language is crucial during video calls

2 July 2020
door Regina Coeli

Meetings, job interviews, sales interviews: they’ve been taking place en masse via video calls in these corona times. In many instances, it’s been a godsend, and online contact via Skype, Zoom, Teams and other platforms have numerous advantages, including less commute time. But there are disadvantages too, such as the loss of all kinds of non-verbal signals during such calls. These matter more to your communication than you might think. You largely have to lean on your verbal skills during online face-to-face conversations. Have you developed them enough? Also in a foreign language?

Non-verbal messages

In normal conversations, non-verbal signals such as how you use your voice, body movements and eye contact play an important role. When your conversation partner gestures, looks away or leans back while (s)he’s speaking, you pick up on what he’s saying differently than when you only listen to the words. In addition, non-verbal cues also help you feel comfortable with someone and forge a bond with them. All these signals add up—often unconsciously—to a lot of information.

Unseen body language during video calls

During video calls, only part of your body language can be seen. On top of that, there’s often a brief delay involved, so your facial expressions and gestures don’t always match what someone hears. A number of things that normally happen almost automatically—things like leaning in or out or the brush of a hand—get completely lost in online contact.

But the lack of eye contact is perhaps the most important deficit of online face-to-face conversations. Eye contact triggers the activation of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons make it easier for you to empathise with the other person and adjust your behaviour accordingly. Eye contact is therefore an important driver behind interaction.

Verbal persuasion (in a foreign language)

During video calls, you need be able to make a good verbal impression and tell a clear story. This can be challenging enough in your native language, let alone when you’re attending an online meeting in English, have an online job interview in German or have a first appointment in French. Basic skills will only get you so far…

Tips for conducting online face-to-face conversations

  • Speak as clearly and as accent-free as possible (tip: slow down). This way you make it more possible for everyone to understand you.
  • Formulate your message or answer briefly and clearly. Online meetings demand a great deal of concentration from all participants. The easier it is to understand your message, the better.
  • Your friendliness, decisiveness and flexibility should be reflected in your spoken language rather than in your body language.
  • Be aware of what you’re saying and how you come across. You can often make up for slips of the tongue in a foreign language in which you unconsciously offend someone by showing, through body language, that your intentions are good. In online situations, you have fewer possibilities to clarify your words with non-verbal signals.
  • Online meetings are often ‘to the point’ and offer little space to build a relationship with the person on the other side of the screen, so be sure to use other ways to stay in touch with your conversation partner(s). Consider sending a personal email after the online appointment, or—if you had an appointment with a group—calling your most important conversation partner from that group.


Mastering a foreign language

Have you regularly participated in online meetings in another language in recent months, or are you reluctant to do so? Learning the language better can help you tremendously! Now is the time to invest in your knowledge of the language you need for your work because online meetings and job applications will remain commonplace for the foreseeable future. Not only because of corona, but also because it saves companies time and money.

Regina Coeli’s language trainers can help you master a foreign language. This can be done through our online training courses, but also through language training at our institute in Vught. After all, it’s also better to be able to look each other in the eye while learning a language. A combination of a language course in Vught with a number of online lessons afterwards is, of course, also possible.

Please feel free contact us to discuss your options!


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