From humble beginnings as Radio Ethnic Australia in 1975, to a multiplatform, internationally-renowned broadcaster and the world's most linguistically diverse radio network.

Elise Hearst
Elise Hearst | 11 Mar 2019

Multilingual media is a vital part of Australian society, and SBS Radio has played a leading role in its development.

Have you ever wondered how it became mainstream in Australia? 

It all started in the 1970s thanks to a quixotic politician named Al Grassby. SBS Radio has been instrumental in promoting social unity and inclusiveness. It’s how one person’s vision helped create a more harmonious and connected society. 

This article explores the important facts about how Al Grassby and SBS Radio pioneered multilingual media in Australia.

SBS Radio aims to inform, educate, and entertain multilingual communities and promote social cohesion and inclusiveness.


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What Is SBS Radio and What Does SBS Stand For?

SBS stands for Special Broadcasting Service, Australia’s multicultural and multilingual public broadcaster. SBS reflects the cultural expansion and continuing success of the “melting pot” that is Australia – a linguistically diverse, vibrant, multicultural society. Its popularity is driven by a mission to provide access to high-quality media content to all “regardless of geography, age, cultural background or language skills”.

SBS has firmly planted itself as an ethnically diverse, inclusive, multilingual media pioneer on the world stage. Our increasingly diverse and interconnected world demands non-English, multi-platform communication.

The range of languages reflects Australia’s cultural diversity. SBS Radio aims to inform, educate, and entertain multilingual communities and promote social cohesion and inclusiveness.

SBS Radio has come a long way since it was launched in 1975. It now produces over 74 radio programs in 68 languages, reaching diverse communities across Australia. It has become an integral service for many new and emerging migrant communities. SBS Radio, along with SBS TV, reflects how Australia has embraced multiculturalism.

It aims to promote understanding between Australia’s many ethnic groups and foster inclusiveness. Al Grassby and Gough Whitlam’s vision of a multilingual broadcaster has enriched Australia’s media landscape.

The Visionary Behind It: Al Grassby and Multiculturalism

Al Grassby wearing a Mexican hatAfter the Second World War, Australia’s population boomed due to changes in immigration policy, with the government (at last) accepting new migrants from non-Anglo backgrounds. Radio and television, however, were slow to reflect the fast-changing identity of Australian society.

In 1973, the Immigration Minister Al Grassby, who would later play a fundamental role in the formation of SBS, remarked:



“How often do our television screens reflect anything like the variety of migrant groups encountered in a real-life stroll through our city streets?”


Albert Jaime Grassby was the visionary behind the creation of SBS Radio. As the Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Government during the 1970s, Grassby was a champion for multiculturalism and improving government services for migrants. 

He believed Australia’s cultural diversity was a strength, not a weakness, and that promoting inclusiveness and harmony between ethnic groups should be a key goal.

Grassby advocated for more foreign language programs on the ABC and additional funding for ethnic community media. However, ABC was reluctant to increase multilingual content, claiming that its charter focused on English-language programming.

Grassby realized that a new public broadcaster dedicated to multicultural and multilingual programming was needed. His lobbying and vision were instrumental in the establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in 1975.

The Launch of SBS Radio in 1975

On June 9, 1975, a groundbreaking initiative known as Radio Ethnic Australia laid the foundation for what would become one of Australia’s most respected and influential media organizations. 

A portrait of Al Grassby, the visionary behind SBS radio and multilingual media

Al Grassby, the Commissioner of Community Relations at the time when it started, advocated for the addition of ethnic radio programs. In 1975, SBS began trialing five-minute radio programs in Italian, Greek, and Arabic. Their target audiences very well received these short segments. SBS Radio then started expanding its range of languages and program lengths. 

The new radio stations would broadcast 7 languages in Sydney on 2EA and 8 languages in Melbourne on 3EA, explaining the new Medibank scheme. Whilst only intended to be a vehicle for disseminating important messages about federal healthcare, the stations proved to be hugely popular. 

Australia’s new migrants were longing to hear familiar stories and news from their homelands and to be communicated within the languages they best understood.

What began as a 3-month trial would lead to the government’s establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) for radio in 1978.

What started on the radio, extends to the TV


In 1980, SBS television first aired in Sydney and Melbourne and SBS broadcast radio programs in 15 languages for over 30 hours a week. The audience had spoken. Their enthusiasm for the station was undeniable.

By 1985, SBS was available in every Australian Capital City, cementing it as one of the five channels available on free-to-air television and radio. In the years following, the network established its reputation for outstanding international journalism, current affairs, as well as Indigenous content, and international cinema. 

It would acquire the rights to cover key international sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, cementing its position as the go-to place for global sports including soccer, cycling, and the Olympics.

World News presenters such as Mary Kostakidis, Helen Kapalos, Lee Lin Chin, and Anton Enus would become household names, whilst reflecting the diversity of an ever-changing nation. Finally, the faces on our screens were beginning to mirror the “real life” that Immigration Minister Al Grassby had poignantly observed as missing from our televised media.

Today, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) continues to shape the landscape of multicultural media, captivate audiences with its diverse programming, and offer a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard.

For the first time in the Australian media landscape, people from non-English speaking backgrounds were not only being heard, they were the recipients of content that was created specifically for them.


A Lifeline for Migrant Communities

For newly arrived migrants in the 1970s, SBS Radio was a lifeline. It allowed them to stay connected with news and current affairs in their native languages. They could also share information relevant to their local communities in Australia. SBS Radio gave many migrants a sense of familiarity in an otherwise foreign environment.

Over the decades, SBS Radio has become an integral platform for cultural exchange and community building.

By reflecting Australia’s cultural diversity, SBS Radio helps migrants maintain their language and traditions, as well as develop their identity as Australians.

SBS Radio’s Multilingual Programming

SBS Radio started with programs in eight languages – Italian, Greek, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, German, Croatian, and Serbian. Today, SBS Radio broadcasts in over 60 languages, making it one of the most linguistically diverse radio networks in the world. Some of the major language groups include:

  • Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien)
  • Arabic
  • Vietnamese
  • Hindi
  • Korean
  • Somali
  • Punjabi
  • Dari and Hazaragi


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SBS Radio aims to celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity and connect communities through sharing information, stories, and music. Programs cover news and current affairs, music, culture, religion, and entertainment. Over two-thirds of content is locally produced, with programs made both in-house and in partnership with community organizations.

SBS Radio has over one million listeners each week, predominantly from non-English speaking backgrounds. Surveys show the majority of listeners tune in daily to access news, information, and entertainment in their native language and connect to their cultural heritage. 

For many older Australians from migrant backgrounds, SBS radio is their primary source of news and information.

SBS Radio’s multilingual and multicultural programming has been crucial for social connection in Australia. It has given a voice to marginalized communities, helped new migrants adapt to life in Australia, and enabled connections between diverse cultural groups.


The Growth of SBS Radio Over the Years

SBS Radio has grown tremendously since its inception in 1975. What began as a few hours of programming each week in a handful of languages has expanded to a 24-hour service broadcasting in over 60 languages.

an old radio used in the 1970s

Expanding Language Offerings

In the early days, SBS Radio only broadcast in a few major languages like Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish. Today, SBS Radio aims to serve diverse multicultural communities across Australia by providing content in many languages from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Some of the more recently added languages include Dinka, Kirundi, Rohingya, and Hakha Chin.

Reaching More Listeners

Originally, SBS Radio could only be accessed on AM/FM radio in a few major cities. Now, SBS Radio is available across Australia on DAB+ digital radio, online at, via the SBS Radio app, and on DTV channels. 

SBS Radio also live streams all channels, so people can listen anytime on their connected devices. These expanded distribution channels have allowed SBS Radio to reach many more listeners.

Valuing Input from Communities

SBS Radio has been committed to community consultation from the beginning. It aims to understand the needs of multicultural communities and deliver content that is relevant and meaningful. SBS Radio actively seeks input from community members and leaders to help shape programming in different languages. 

Community advisory groups provide feedback on issues like content, presentation, and scheduling.

SBS Radio has achieved remarkable growth over four decades, overcoming many challenges along the way. 

 By staying true to its mission of inclusiveness and diversity, SBS Radio continues to serve new generations of Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds.


Other SBS Radio Channels and Services

SBS Radio broadcasts a variety of multilingual and multicultural radio channels in addition to their mainstream stations.

SBS Hindi

This channel provides news, current affairs, culture, music, and entertainment to Hindi speakers across Australia. It features programs on politics, business, social issues, arts, culture, and community news.

SBS Arabic24

SBS Arabic24 radio delivers news, information, culture, and entertainment for Arabic speakers in Australia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It features live news coverage, analysis of current events, cultural programs, sports news, documentaries, music, and community information.

SBS Chinese

This channel serves Chinese communities across Australia with programs on news, current affairs, culture, music, and community information in Mandarin and Cantonese. It aims to inform, educate, and entertain Chinese-speaking Australians with content relevant to them.

SBS PopAsia

SBS PopAsia radio plays the latest Asian pop music from artists across Asia and promotes contemporary Asian pop culture. It features Korean pop (K-pop), Japanese pop (J-pop), Chinese pop (C-pop), Taiwanese pop (T-pop), and more from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore.

In addition to radio channels in various languages, SBS also offers podcasts, online streaming, and digital radio to provide greater accessibility and choice to listeners. By offering news, information, and entertainment in many languages, SBS Radio helps new migrants maintain connections to their culture and homelands as they settle into life in Australia.


The Importance of Multilingual Media Representation

Multilingual media plays an important role in promoting inclusion and diversity. When radio stations, TV channels, and other media outlets provide content in multiple languages, it gives more people the opportunity to access information and feel represented.

Accessibility and Representation

For linguistically diverse communities, multilingual media is crucial for accessibility. When content is only available in a primary language like English, it excludes those who aren’t proficient or prefer to engage in their native tongue. Offering media in a variety of languages allows more individuals to stay informed and connected.

Multilingual media also helps promote cultural diversity by spotlighting stories from different ethnic groups. Hearing languages and accents from around the world on the airwaves reminds us that Australia is a vibrant, multicultural society. Giving airtime to multicultural voices and content boosts visibility and inclusion.

Multilingual media encourages understanding between all groups, which is vital for a harmonious, multi-cultural nation like Australia.

The Strength of Language Diversity

Another key importance of multilingual media representation lies in the power of language variety.

When different languages are celebrated and promoted through media platforms, it fosters a sense of appreciation and respect for various cultures and languages.

Language is an essential part of one’s identity and heritage. By providing content in multiple languages, it allows individuals to connect with their roots, maintain cultural ties, and preserve their linguistic traditions.

It creates a space where people feel seen, heard, and validated in their language preferences.

Moreover, embracing language diversity through media representation encourages linguistic inclusivity and breaks down barriers. It promotes a society where people from different language backgrounds can communicate and understand each other better. 

By showcasing stories, news, and entertainment in various languages, multilingual media bridges the gap between communities, fostering a sense of unity and understanding.

Promotes Language Learning And Cultural Exchange

In addition, multilingual media representation encourages the acquisition of language skills and fosters cultural interchange. It serves as a valuable resource for individuals who are interested in exploring new languages and cultures. 

Through exposure to different languages, listeners and viewers are encouraged to broaden their horizons, develop empathy, and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Creates Pathways for Economic Prospects

Another importance of multilingual media representation opens doors for economic opportunities. As globalization continues to connect different regions and markets, businesses recognize the importance of reaching diverse audiences.

By utilizing multilingual media platforms, companies can effectively communicate their messages to a wider range of potential customers, ultimately driving economic growth and fostering international collaborations.

The Future of SBS Radio and Multilingual Broadcasting 

The future of SBS Radio and multilingual broadcasting in Australia looks bright. As the population becomes more culturally and linguistically diverse, the demand for media in languages other than English will likely increase.

Growth of migrant communities

With steady immigration from non-English speaking backgrounds, Australia’s cultural diversity continues to grow. Migrant communities prefer to engage with media in their native languages, allowing them to stay connected to their cultural heritage. SBS Radio, as a public broadcaster, aims to serve these communities and give them a voice.

Funding and support

Government funding for SBS ensures it can provide radio services for minority groups that commercial stations may overlook. However, funding cuts threaten these services. Support from listeners and advocacy groups helps demonstrate their importance.

New platforms

SBS Radio already live streams all its stations and many podcasts are available on demand. As new platforms emerge, SBS can reach more listeners through smart speakers, mobile apps, and other devices. 

However, some older listeners still prefer traditional radio. SBS needs to utilize both new technologies and existing broadcast infrastructure. 

Not all migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds are as technologically proficient as one another. In a paper delivered by Pino Migliorino, a leading commentator and expert around cultural diversity, he found that there may be a high discrepancy between the digital capabilities of people from non-English speaking backgrounds, depending on their life experience.

For example, refugees and older migrants (23% of the Australian population aged over 65 years come from a migrant background) are typically not as digitally literate as skilled migrants.

A study conducted by Migliorino of skilled migrants of Indian descent revealed that an astonishing 94% of those interviewed use social media, whereas older CALD migrants are “generally unlikely to have received training in the use of many new technologies”  (Migliorino, 2016).

“Communication and the ability to access information are key components of any democracy – key factors in the process of allowing all citizens and residents to understand their rights and fulfil their responsibilities.”

(Migliorino, 2016)


Addressing isolation

For some elderly or housebound listeners, SBS Radio provides a vital source of news, information, and companionship in their language. Regular call-in shows also combat isolation by allowing listeners to connect with others in their community.

Promoting social cohesion

By giving a voice to diverse communities, SBS Radio helps promote inclusiveness and strengthens social bonds. When people can share experiences and engage in dialog, it fosters understanding and harmony between groups. Multilingual media plays an important role in shaping a cohesive multicultural society.

For CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) people and communities, access to digital content is really important. It allows them to resource content for themselves, represent themselves to voice their concerns, and to share their experiences with each other by communicating amongst themselves

(Migliorino, 2016).



And so we see how Al Grassby’s vision and passion, combined with the lobbying efforts of ethnic communities, led to the creation of SBS Radio. Providing news and entertainment in over 60 languages, SBS Radio has been instrumental in helping new migrants maintain connections to their cultures and in fostering social bonds in Australia’s culturally diverse society. 

While the early years were a struggle, today SBS Radio continues to adapt to the changing face of Australia. It remains an essential service for hundreds of thousands of listeners from all walks of life who tune in each week to hear the familiar sounds of home. 

SBS stands as a shining example of the power of media to bring people together, promote inclusivity, and amplify diverse voices.

Through its commitment to multilingualism, professional development, and authentic storytelling, SBS continues to shape Australia’s media landscape, leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s cultural identity. 

What stories or messages do you have to deliver? Who is your audience? Can your audience listen to your messages in a language they can understand?


Here at All Graduates, we are committed to working with our clients and the wider community to promote multilingual representation in media in all of its forms. We exist to help build bridges between cultures and to create a more inclusive society. 

Lastly, we believe that everyone has a story to tell, and we want to help everyone tell their story in their own language.

Find out how you can use multiple digital platforms and audio to connect with your customers and clients.


  • The Connection Between Multilingualism and Business Success
  • The Importance of Representation in Film and Media by Lauren Washington
  • The importance of children’s representation in literature and media by Arianna Braga
  • 40 years of history, broadcast to you on SBS Radio
  • A Brief History of SBS



Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone from a different culture? 

Ellias Appel
Ellias Appel | 4 Mar 2019

In our interconnected global landscape, businesses are no longer confined by borders. This makes navigating the intricate web of cross-cultural communication challenging, that’s why we came up with these key principles of cross-cultural communication in business. 

Australia, being a vibrant multicultural nation, understands the significance of effective cross-cultural communication in the world of business. Entrepreneurs are expanding their horizons and engaging with partners, clients, and customers from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Let us ask you a question: Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone from a different culture? 

Chances are, you have. 

In this article, we delve into the heart of effective communication across cultures. We’ll explore the fundamental principles that bridge gaps, foster understanding, and create fruitful collaborations. From decoding non-verbal cues to embracing diversity, each principle is a stepping stone toward building strong international partnerships.

This comprehensive guide will unravel the complexities of cross-cultural communications tailored to meet the needs of businesses and entrepreneurs in Australia. 

What makes this guide valuable for Australians? – You might ask. 

The answer lies in the unique cultural tapestry of Australia itself—a nation that prides itself on its multicultural heritage. Australians, with their friendly and open-minded attitude, are well-placed to excel in global business ventures. By grasping these key principles, Australian entrepreneurs can not only expand their businesses overseas but also create inclusive environments right at home.

So are you ready to become a cross-cultural communication pro? 

Let’s dive in.

1 – Be Aware of Your Own Communication Style

The first among the key principles of cross-cultural communication in business is being aware. The way you communicate says a lot about you and your cultural values. As an Australian business owner, your style is likely casual, straightforward, and egalitarian. But for someone from a different culture, your communication habits could come across differently.

It’s important to recognize how your own beliefs and expectations shape the way you interact with others.

One of the key principles in cross-cultural communication is being aware of other people’s communication styles

Humans naturally tend to see people from different groups as outsiders. This tendency leads to forming stereotypes or generalizations, according to Gestalt theory.

Things you consider polite or efficient may be offensive or confusing to someone else. For example, gesturing for someone to hurry up or waving them off may seem rude to other cultures where non-verbal communication is more nuanced.

Do some self-reflection on your communication style and habits. Try to identify any assumptions you make about others and be open to different perspectives. This awareness and flexibility will help you better serve culturally diverse clients.

When interacting with non-English speakers especially, adjust your style to be more attentive, patient, and inclusive.

“It is important to be aware of your own values, beliefs, expectations and cultural practices, and consider how these impact on your responses, interactions and service provision to people from cultures different from your own.”

Queensland Department of Health.


2 –  Do Not Assume English Proficiency

When communicating with culturally diverse clients, never assume a high level of English proficiency. Many non-native English speakers experience anxiety when interacting in English, which can hamper their ability to communicate effectively.

If your client is smiling and nodding, it doesn’t always mean they fully understand. They might be doing it nervously to seem competent, not because they’re sure about what’s being said. 

To figure out if they need an interpreter, ask open-ended questions that need more than a yes or no answer. You can also ask them to explain what you’ve said in their own words. This isn’t meant to embarrass them but to see if they’re having trouble understanding.

Some signs that a client may have limited English proficiency include:

  • Avoiding eye contact. This could be a mark of respect in their culture rather than shyness.
  • Relying on a family member to interpret. While convenient, family members are not professional interpreters and may fail to fully convey critical information.
  • Difficulty understanding complex terms or following fast speech. Slow down your speaking pace and avoid jargon.
  • Expressing confusion or a lack of comprehension. Don’t hesitate to clarify and check for understanding.

a cartoon illustration of two guys talking to each other

To ensure your communications are received and understood, consider offering information in the client’s native language through channels like:

  • Bilingual staff members. If available, bilingual staff can help put clients at ease by communicating in their native tongue.
  • Professional interpreters. Don’t underestimate the value of a qualified interpreter, especially for sensitive or complex discussions.
  • Translated documents. Provide key information like intake forms, educational materials, or terms of service in the client’s native language.
  • Audio messages. For low-literacy clients or those without written language, recorded audio messages are an effective way to share details. Look for services that offer translation and distribution.

Failure to address language barriers and offer adequate language support can lead to anxiety, confusion, and lack of comprehension for non-English speaking clients. By making inclusiveness a priority and providing a variety of communication options, you’ll ensure all your clients receive the level of service they need.

3 – Don’t Equate English Skill with Intelligence

Just because your client struggles with English does not mean they lack intelligence or competence. Many highly educated professionals face challenges in learning a new language, especially one as complex as English. Do not make assumptions about someone’s mental abilities based solely on their English proficiency.

Rather than judging a client’s intelligence, focus on finding ways to effectively communicate. Using an interpreter or translation services allows you to have a meaningful dialogue and gain valuable insights. With patience and the right resources, you can have a productive working relationship regardless of language barriers.

The meaning and nuance of phrases often get lost in translation. Concepts common in English may be unfamiliar in other cultures and languages. For example, medical terms like “low-fat diet” or “high blood pressure” could confuse those without a healthcare background.

For instance, in Melbourne, we have something called ‘hook-turns,’ a unique maneuver for trams. When you translate this term into Arabic using Google Translate, it becomes ‘link turn.’ This highlights a scenario where not using the right language services could lead to more problems.

A client’s poor English skills often stem from a lack of opportunity or exposure, not a lack of intelligence. For many, learning English as a second language can be an immense challenge requiring time, dedication, and access to resources that are not always available.

Sandals, pluggers, flip flops, thongs

Sandals, pluggers, flip flops, thongs?


4 – Expecting Competent Literacy in their Native Language is a Mistake

Expecting your culturally diverse clients to have a high level of literacy in their native language is a mistake that can lead to confusion and anxiety. Many Australians struggle with literacy for a variety of reasons, and non-English speakers are no exception.

There is a reason why this is one of the key principles of cross-cultural communication because according to studies, over 30% of Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds might find it challenging to read and write in English. Just because someone speaks another language does not mean they can read or write in that language.

Do not assume that translating your communications into another language will be effective.

So what can you do?

Provide information in Multiple Formats

To reach all of your clients, provide information in various formats beyond the written word. Explaining things verbally, offering telephone messaging services, using graphics and illustrations, and sharing audio recordings can help get your message across.

For example, you might turn an info brochure into an audio message that can be accessed over the phone or shared on social media. Services like LiME allow you to record messages in multiple languages to reach non-English speaking clients across various channels.

Reduce anxiety by avoiding assumptions 

Non-English speakers often feel anxious when trying to communicate in English, especially in high-pressure situations like medical appointments or job interviews. Surrounding someone with complex language they struggle to understand can be intimidating and complicate their ability to communicate.

Take time to determine your client’s level of English proficiency and their preferred method of communication. Speaking slowly, avoiding jargon and complex terminology, and offering interpreter services or telephone messaging in their native language can help reduce anxiety and ensure your message is received.

Making assumptions about your clients’ abilities often leads to confusion, isolation, and failed communication. By providing information in multiple formats and taking steps to reduce anxiety, you can engage your culturally diverse and non-English speaking clients more effectively. Evaluate your current practices and make adjustments to accommodate people from all backgrounds.


“Multilingual messaging services such as LiME give you the flexibility to deliver pre-recorded audio to low literacy and non-English speaking clients across multiple communication channels”


5 – Failing to Involve an Interpreter

Failing to involve an interpreter when interacting with clients from non-English speaking backgrounds can be detrimental to effective communication and negatively impact their experience. This is why it is part of the key principles of cross-cultural communication in business. 

As a business, it is important to recognize that a client’s English proficiency should not be assumed, even if they appear reasonably fluent in conversational English.

Complex or technical discussions may prove challenging without the aid of a professional interpreter. An interpreter can help to clarify meaning, relay cultural nuances, and ensure full understanding between both parties. While relying on a bilingual staff member or family member can be an option, a qualified interpreter should be engaged in important interactions to avoid misunderstandings.

Remember, even with a shared language, cultural differences in communication styles can lead to confusion. Interpreters can explain subtle meanings that may otherwise be missed.

Consider your client’s needs

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. How would you feel surrounded by a group of professionals discussing a serious medical diagnosis or legal issue in a language you struggle with? Anxiety and confusion would likely ensue. Provide your clients with the means to fully comprehend discussions that impact them by offering interpreter services.

Enable Complete Involvement

With an interpreter on hand for important meetings and phone calls, you enable full participation from non-English speakers. They can ask questions, understand responses, and feel heard. Meanwhile, you gain insights that may have been lost without skilled interpretation.

Build trust through understanding

Taking steps to facilitate clear communication and address literacy needs helps to build trust in the client-business relationship. Your clients will appreciate your consideration of their circumstances and your willingness to go the extra mile to ensure they feel heard and understood. In turn, addressing communication barriers in this way can lead to greater client satisfaction, loyalty, and improved outcomes.

Making assumptions about a client’s communication needs based on their English proficiency or literacy levels risks misunderstandings, confusion, and a poor client experience. Failing to provide interpreter services or alternative formats denies clients full access and participation.

 For culturally and linguistically diverse clients, overcoming communication barriers is key to an empowering and impactful relationship with your business. With some forethought, these barriers can be addressed through professional interpreting services and multilingual messaging.


“We can help you best serve your non-English speaking and low literacy clients.”


6 – Engage in Meaningful Conversations

One of the key principles of cross-cultural communication is to immerse yourself in deep talks. 

To effectively communicate across cultures, engage in genuine conversations. Ask open-ended questions to start a dialog and show interest in learning about the other person.

A good way to start is by asking about family, work, hobbies, or home country. People will usually open up when you express interest in them. Listen without judgment and share information about yourself too, to build rapport and trust.

Be patient if there are language barriers. Speak clearly and avoid complicated words and idioms that may confuse the other person. Repeat or rephrase if needed. Don’t hesitate to politely ask for clarification if you’re unsure.

Discuss cultural similarities and differences respectfully. Share information about holidays, traditions, or values in your own culture and ask questions to learn about theirs. Find common ground and show appreciation for diversity.

Most of all, approach each conversation with an open and curious mind. Set aside stereotypes and preconceived notions. Treat each person as an individual and seek to understand them. Building connections through genuine, cross-cultural conversations is the key to successful communication and relationships.

7- Be Attentive to Non-Verbal Cues

When communicating across cultures, pay close attention to non-verbal signals. Things like eye contact, gestures, and body language can have different meanings in different cultures. For Australians, eye contact is usually seen as a sign of active listening and honesty. However, for some cultures, avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect.

Before assuming someone is being rude or disengaged, consider their cultural background. If they seem uncomfortable making eye contact, try to put them at ease by also averting your gaze at times. Look for other signs that they are listening, such as nodding or leaning in. Mirroring their body language and speaking in a calm, friendly tone can help build rapport.

key principles of cross-cultural communication: a thumbs-up gesture can mean differently across cultures

Similarly, be aware that gestures, facial expressions, and proximity to others can differ across cultures. A “thumbs up” sign, for example, is positive in some cultures but offensive in others. Do some research on the cultural groups you interact with often to understand appropriate behavior. When in doubt, a smile, a polite greeting, and an open-minded attitude can go a long way.

Give people time to respond, as it may take longer to translate in their head or formulate a response. Extend the normal pause time in a conversation by a few seconds. This can reduce the chance of misunderstandings and prevent cutting someone off before they’ve had a chance to contribute.

With empathy, patience, and a willingness to understand other perspectives, you’ll find connecting across cultures rewarding. Make the effort to pick up on non-verbal cues, adapt your communication style, and clarify misunderstandings. Your cross-cultural interactions will be richer and more meaningful as a result.

8- Respect Cultural Differences

When communicating across cultures, respecting differences is key. Assume that people from other cultures view the world differently than you. Their values, beliefs, and communication styles have been shaped by their cultural upbringing, just as yours have.

Rather than judging these differences as right or wrong, seek to understand them. Ask open-ended questions to learn about cultural traditions and norms. Be curious and willing to see from multiple perspectives. Some things that seem strange or illogical to you may make perfect sense within that cultural context.

For example, avoid direct eye contact or a firm handshake in some Asian cultures where it can be seen as disrespectful. In some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities, avoid using someone’s name after they have passed away out of respect. Learn about cultural taboos and sensitivities that could offend.

Making assumptions based on stereotypes is dangerous and can damage relationships and trust. Treat each person as an individual. While trends may exist within cultures, there is diversity among individuals. Someone’s cultural background alone does not define them.

When miscommunications or misunderstandings occur, remain patient and respectful. Apologize sincerely and work to find common ground again. Compromise when possible, as forcing your way of doing things onto others is unethical.

With an open and willing attitude, you can build strong cross-cultural relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. Focus on listening, empathy, and finding shared values. Respect differences rather than trying to eliminate them. Communicate with care, compassion, and cultural sensitivity. This inclusive approach will lead to more meaningful exchanges and cooperation.

9- Utilise Professional Translators

The last of the key principles of cross-cultural communication in the business arena is utilising the services of professional translators. 

When conducting business across cultures, professional language services are invaluable. Utilising interpreters and translators help ensure your message is received accurately by those from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

As a business, it’s important to recognize that not all of your clients and customers will speak English fluently or at all. Assuming otherwise risks miscommunication and damaged relationships. 

Instead of relying on staff members with some language proficiency or expecting clients to “make do,” invest in professional interpreters and translators. They have the expertise to navigate cultural nuances and properly convey information in both directions.

For written communications, professional translators transform your content into the target languages of your audience. 

They go beyond word-for-word translation to craft messaging that resonates culturally. Your organization appears more accessible and inclusive, which fosters goodwill and loyalty.

Some additional benefits of utilizing language services such as translators include:

  • Avoiding confusion and offense by ensuring messages are culturally and linguistically appropriate.
  • Gaining access to wider markets by reaching non-English speaking clients and customers.
  • Improving client satisfaction through ease of access and understanding.
  • Mitigating legal risks associated with miscommunication.
  • Enhancing workplace inclusiveness by empowering employees from diverse language backgrounds.

With many options for remote and on-site interpreting and document translation, professional language services have never been more convenient or vital for cross-cultural business communication. 

Make the investment in your organization’s multilingual capacity—and in showing respect for the diversity of your clients and customers. The rewards of clear, meaningful exchange are well worth it.


You’ve just learned some key ways to connect across cultural divides and thrive in our global economy.

As we reach the conclusion, it’s clear that understanding these key principles of cross-cultural communication in business is not just a choice, but a necessity in today’s globalized world. Now that you understand how to adapt your communication style, build trust, avoid stereotyping, encourage feedback, and foster inclusion, you’re well on your way to becoming an effective cross-cultural communicator.

Mastering these key principles of cross-cultural communication opens doors to endless opportunities in the international business arena. Apply these principles in your workplace and beyond, continue learning from every interaction, and make the effort to understand different perspectives. 

With an open and curious mindset, you’ll be collaborating, innovating, and achieving at a whole new level.

Moreover, we’ve learned that effective cross-cultural communication begins with embracing diversity. Australia’s rich multicultural fabric provides a strong foundation for this understanding. By acknowledging and celebrating our differences, we create an environment where collaboration and innovation flourish.

Armed with knowledge, empathy, and a commitment to understanding others, people here at All Graduates are well-equipped to navigate the intricate pathways of cross-cultural communication. We embrace these principles, celebrate diversity, and venture forth into helping the global marketplace with confidence, knowing that our services will not only drive business success but also foster a world where mutual respect and understanding prevail.

Let us be your partner as we wish you safe travels on your cross-cultural business journey and endeavour. 


  • Australia. Queensland Health. Queensland Health Language Services Policy [online] 2000 [cited July 2007]
  • When Culture Doesn’t Translate by Erin Meyer. Published in Harvard Business Review, 2015
  • Working on Common Cross-Cultural Communication Challenges by Marcelle E. DuPraw and Marya Axner
  • The 5 Keys to Cross-Cultural Communication Success by Bianca Modo, 2023