As a global workforce, Xvoucher thrives on the diversity of its team, bringing together individuals from all over the world. Meet Angie Luque, a Rockstar Senior Development Manager at Xvoucher. As a way to drive connection to our virtual workforce, Angie created a Slack channel where employees can swap stories and tips about how things are said and expressed in different languages. A virtual linguistic “potluck” that is always eye-opening to engage with.
We interviewed her to find out her inspiration and find out more about what drives her to post daily.
What inspired the creation of the Slack channel for the use of language and cultural exchange?
Throughout my career, I've embraced two significant principles, both professionally and personally: "continuous improvement" and "resilience". I find it fascinating to learn new things and actively seek opportunities for learning from challenges. I also enjoy assisting others in their learning journeys.
When I joined the Xvoucher team, I found myself as part of a globally distributed product development team, with members hailing from at least 6 different countries, all communicating in English. In the beginning of 2023, a colleague from Romania, who had recently relocated from Berlin to Andalusia, Spain, joined our team. Despite having a strong command of English, he had yet to grasp any Spanish. Recognizing the need for inclusion and support, I started sharing daily informative snippets to assist him in adapting to both the team and our country.
A few days later, the U.S. team visited Spain, and during our time together, I discovered that some of our colleagues had been studying Spanish for years but lacked opportunities for practical application—similar to the challenges Spanish speakers faced in practicing English beyond the technical jargon used daily.
On January 26, 2023, I transformed the educational snippets originally shared privately into an open channel accessible to the entire company. This channel aimed to create an environment where everyone could benefit from and contribute to learning about languages, customs, idioms, and colloquial expressions from our native colleagues.
Have you always been interested in learning different languages?
Ever since I was little, I've been captivated by the idea of being able to communicate with someone in a different language, to understand the lyrics of the songs I enjoyed. While my parents studied French in school, they knew only a couple of words in English. During summers, my cousins from the northern part of the country came to visit, and their conversations in Basque always caught my attention. Only one aunt spoke English, and her proficiency in the language allowed her to pursue a thesis and a doctorate in the UK and Sweden—a prospect that I found incredibly fascinating.
Years before I could begin English classes in primary school (at the age of 12), I would spend hours in my room with cassette tapes and the Larousse English and French instructional booklets that my parents had at home.
How many languages do you speak?
I am a native Spanish speaker, fluent in English, and proficient in French, although to a lesser extent due to a lack of consistent practice. I formally studied English from the ages of 12 to 21, lived in Ireland on two separate occasions for a total of almost three years, and have continued to work and communicate in English since then, benefiting from interactions with native speakers, company-sponsored classes, and obtaining relevant certifications.
In the case of French, I received formal instruction from the ages of 14 to 17. However, in my mid-20s, I spent three years living with French individuals. It only took a couple of weeks of initial adjustment until I could fully understand and communicate effectively with them and their families.
How has the response been from employees regarding the language exchange initiative?
The response has been pretty positive. The initiative has not only encompassed language exchange but has also evolved into a cultural exchange, spanning beyond just English and Spanish. It has been fascinating to observe the diversity even within the same language, particularly in the case of Spanish, where regional nuances play a significant role. The experience has proven to be not only enriching but also enjoyable, highlighting the unique variations in language and culture among participants.
How do other team members participate and engage in the Slack channel?
Team members engage with the Slack channel by responding to posts with emojis, offering variations, sharing insights, curiosities, expressions from their own (local version of) language, or anecdotes. Additionally, several team members contribute by creating their own posts when they come across something interesting or learn something they believe would be beneficial for others.
Do you have a specific example of an interesting language or cultural difference you have learned from the Slack channel?
“To be a piece of cake” or “easy as pie” can be translated in Spain as “ser pan comido” (literally “to be eaten bread”), or “estar chupado” (literally “to be sucked”). However, in Uruguay, “estar chupado” would be understood as be annoyed, irritated or upset.
Idioms and popular sentences are my favorite ones, and they’re difficult to learn if you are not with native people. It’s also interesting for me to see how different the American and British English are.
What’s your favorite post from the channel? Or one that made you laugh or taught you something?
The one where it was clarified that “Onion” is not pronounced as “O-nion”, but “A-nion” (in Spanish vowel sounds, “Uh-nion” as per our American colleagues), which is probably the post with more contributions from different people. My whole life I was saying “O-nion”, until then :)
How does the language exchange initiative integrate into the daily work routine and overall company culture?
This initiative is entirely voluntary, both for sharing knowledge and acquiring it. We aim to seamlessly integrate it into the team's daily work routine without disrupting anyone's schedule. To achieve this, we've implemented the initiative in a dedicated Slack channel where team members can contribute asynchronously and as much as they prefer, without adding extra meetings to their calendars or interrupting their tasks. Whether during work hours or outside them, whenever we come across something interesting on TV, in articles, or elsewhere, we save it for later and share it in the channel when we have a moment. Everyone shares aspects of their daily lives, hobbies, or anything they find relevant, fostering a deeper understanding among team members, providing insights into different cultures, allowing for a brief break when needed, and offering the chance to interact with colleagues from other departments whom we might not otherwise encounter.
When you're part of a team driven by the ambition to learn and improve, every opportunity becomes a valuable gift!
Have you received feedback from other employees if so, what has been the general sentiment?
I've requested feedback from the team on a couple of occasions, and the feedback has been entirely positive. They enjoy learning new ways of expressing ideas, whether it is a different phrase or how certain expressions are used in various regions. The team truly appreciates the initiative and has encouraged us to continue with it over time.
What advice would you give to other companies looking to integrate language and cultural exchange in their teams?
In a multicultural environment, I find it crucial to provide opportunities for team members to get to know each other, understand similarities and differences, and create a meeting point where everyone can contribute selflessly while benefiting from each other's knowledge—without constraints, commitments, or competitiveness.
A simple initiative, such as opening a chat channel with a clear purpose and a bit of shared effort to propose content, can assist teams in relieving stress, taking a moment to disconnect, getting to know their colleagues better, improving communication, and learning languages. Sometimes, creating a friendly environment where growth together becomes achievable takes very little.
Xvoucher's commitment to embracing diversity and fostering a global community goes beyond professional collaboration; it extends to a genuine celebration of language and cultural richness. The creation of the Slack channel by Angie Luque, our dedicated Senior Development Manager, stands to our belief that understanding and appreciating each other's languages and cultures enhances not only our internal cohesion but amplifies what we value we bring to our customers. Understanding diverse perspectives enhances communication, fostering a team that not only thrives but, in turn, provides unmatched service and connection to our clients worldwide.