Breaking Down the Language Barriers

August focus: Domestic Cleaning Service

breaking down the language barriers

Breaking Down the Language Barriers

In communicating with your client, the most important thing is to find a way to understand each other, either verbally or even by using gestures. It is important when you meet your client to tell them that you understand every word that they say but have difficulty in saying some English words, or you may have difficulty in finding the right word to describe something. It’s OK. A little bit of patience and understanding by both of you goes a long way.

If you have only basic English skills and have difficulty in saying and understanding the English language try to make the client understand you by speaking slowly and carefully – use your hands (if you have to) to show what you mean.

SAY – ‘I understand that you would like me to do ……….(and describe what your understanding is of what they have just asked you to do)’. This will either reassure your client that you know what they are talking about or give them the chance to clarify their exact requirements.

SAY – ‘Can you show me, please’ to the client if they ask you to do something and you are not sure what they mean. If you don’t understand, ask if the client will repeat the instructions (and keep asking if you need to).

SAY – ‘Could you repeat that again, more slowly, please.’ Use words that are familiar, words you are comfortable with, words that you feel confident in their correct pronunciation. Practice pronouncing words with your family and try to use English words as much as possible so that you become familiar with them and become confident in using them with your clients.

It is important when clarifying what your client has requested that they hear that you are only looking for clarification of their requirements, not asking them how to clean. Be careful not to give the impression that you don’t know what you are doing, because this will actually work against you, not for you. You may be trying to show a willingness to accommodate their needs but it may be interpreted as not knowing what you are doing, so when you ask for clarification you should always aim to sound confident in your knowledge of HOW to do what is asked.

Try to spend more time reading – especially the newspapers – Read aloud. Learn and practice every- day common words and phrases.

If your client (or anybody else) is rude to you, it is their problem not yours. This type of client is not good. Your client will be impressed firstly by your willingness and obvious intention to do the right thing, and secondly by your terrific cleaning standards. Because of both of these attributes combined the good clients will want to retain your services, which is ultimately the goal in all of this!


Describe how you would try to explain to your client that the fee for service needs to be more than the estimate that you first gave over the phone if you are having difficulty communicating with your client?

Describe how you would try to clarify the instructions that your client had just given you when you go to a job where the client’s home has just been renovated.


Your cleaning performance is likely to be judged on your communication skills. One person judges another within minutes of their first meeting. It is then that they decide whether they like the person or not and this could effect their decision as to whether they retain that person’s services or not. You will have to work on your presentation skills in order to develop a rapport with your client.

You will need to develop skills of diplomacy, consideration, trustworthiness and relaxed and fluent communication. First impressions count, so create a good first impression. Smile, be warm and friendly.

Greet the client with a warm HELLO. SMILE and look into your client’s eyes. Don’t be shy – that makes the client uncomfortable.

Ask how the client is feeling – SAY – ‘How are you feeling today, Mrs. Jones?’ Compliment your client – SAY – ‘You look nice today, Mrs. Jones’. People love to talk about themselves

The art of a good conversation can be achieved by the exchange of ideas, developing good listening skills and not interrupting or arguing. Always ask questions and never gossip. Eliminate gloom from your conversation and be positive.

Think before you speak, listen carefully, be interested in what your client has to say. ask questions, but don’t get too personal. Talk to clients about GENERAL TOPICS.

Think of examples of what you would say to your client to begin to create a good relationship with them.

Always be courteous – Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Ask ‘ What can I do for you today, Mrs. Jones?’

Become more knowledgeable about general topics going on in the world. Read newspapers – Ask ‘What do you think about ….?’

Make Friends with Children and Animals

Some clients will want you to become their friend, not just their cleaner and they will look forward to your weekly/fortnightly visits. Who do you think will most likely want to become friends with you? Be careful though, because if you spend too much time having a coffee with your client they will soon focus on the fact that you are ‘wasting’ the money that they are paying you to perform the cleaning. Despite the fact that it was they that asked you, and even though you may only take time to have coffee with them outside the hours that you have been paid for, remember to keep this time short so that you won’t be accused of taking advantage of your client. Keep everything balanced.

Avoid closed conversations – questions that are answered with a definite yes or no. Keep to an open conversation. For example, a question such as ‘Did you have a good weekend, Mr Jones?’ would be better said as ‘What did you do over the weekend, Mrs Jones?’ This question can only be answered with a brief outline of what Mrs Jones did, and if it wasn’t a good weekend for her she can’t say ‘no’ to the first question listed here.

Q. What questions would be good to ask your clients (being aware that questions that begin with the word ‘What, Where or Who’ are better than questions that begin with the word ‘Did’).

Try to keep all comments fairly positive, and keep a bright outlook on life. Try to make your conversation light, be descriptive, be agreeable, and be friendly and approachable. Keep control of the direction of the conversation yourself. All this takes is practice.

Remember that it’s not what you say – it’s how you say it.

Sometimes speech comes across as aggressive, blunt or rude (even if you don’t mean it). So how would you try to change the way your communication comes across? Say, for example, how would you turn a situation around if the client was asking you to do Spring-Cleaning services on a Maintenance Clean?

Do not give short or curt/sharp answers or be sarcastic. In the previous question there would be a better way to handle a situation than simply saying ‘no, I don’t do that on a Maintenance Clean.’ What do you think that would be?

To your client nothing is too difficult, too much trouble or effort (for the right price, of course!)

Humour your client – If your client makes a joke and laughs, laugh with them, even if you don’t understand or think it is funny. Ignore other people’s prejudices. Think of how you want to be treated – then treat others the same.


You can read more in the next article about: Pieces in a Puzzle


Free From the Gilded Cage is the education arm of the Loving Heart Foundation Australia where we teach the basics of self-employment and basic budgeting skills. This is so that women can learn the skills needed to manage their own lives without feeling trapped in a relationship with a man who is beating them up. With these skills they can easily leave him.

Update: The first novel in our series of seven written to raise funds for those whom we assist is now published. It is the courageous story of a young teen growing up in a home filled with domestic violence, and how she manoeuvres her way through such a difficult situation. Click here if you’d like to know more about this novel.

Click here if you’d like to be taken to the site where you can purchase this novel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.