What can we do to make the language training process more effective in international companies and organisations? Here’s what I’ve seen over the past 10 years of working with corporate clients in the financial services industry in London.
Big international corporations who recognise the importance of providing foreign language training for their employees, usually engage independent training companies to provide language courses. That typically looks like this:
- The training company asks the corporation for more details to understand the needs of the business.
- The training company asks a teacher/tutor to visit the company and do an all round level assessment.
- ‘Students’ are then assigned to beginner, intermediary and advanced groups, with each group consisting of at least 10 ‘students’ or so.
- The course starts.
- Eventually, disinterest starts to sneak in.
- Attendance rate drops.
- Success rate plummets.
- There’s hardly any measurable positive outcome. Some benefit a little, others benefit a little more, while some just drop out.
- The bottom line: money and time gets wasted and the overall language skills do not improve as significantly as they should.
Why is that and more importantly, what can we do to make the language training process more effective?
LARGE GROUPS ARE SEEMINGLY COST EFFICIENT BUT NOT EFFICIENT WHEN IT COMES TO DELIVERING TANGIBLE RESULTS.
Participants work in different roles, different departments of the company, therefore the area and situations they’ll use the language in will ultimately vary. The basics should be the same, but certain specifics are best to address at the very beginning of the learning process.
When attendants have different needs and skill sets, making them learn in a group will result in time, money and results being wasted.
Some delegates might learn faster, some of them slower when it comes to understanding certain points. It’s almost inevitable that a few may find that they want to go a bit faster and yet, they still lag behind because of others. Revising and re-explaining things helps seeing them from a different angle and makes the learning much deeper, but ultimately it will slow the process down.
TEACHERS MAY BE HARD TO RELATE TO.
Executives feel reassured when they see that their teacher knows a thing or two of the business they’re in. If it’s finance, then they expect their language teacher to know about the finance industry, no matter what level the client is at or whether finance specifics are addressed at lessons or not.
That ‘knowing’ will ensure that there’s a certain level of sympathy and understanding which forms a great basis for working together toward a certain goal. When we understand the everyday challenges and stress corporates deal with on a daily basis, teachers can adapt their teaching and establish deeper trust and understanding.
THE COURSE IS TAILORED TO THE COMPANY’S NEEDS BUT NOT TAILORED TO EACH PARTICIPANT’S NEEDS.
It’s imperative for the tutor to consider both the company’s and each individual client’s needs and create a programme that will serve both to ensure sustainable progress and motivation. It’s close to impossible to achieve this when teaching groups.
THERE’S NO FLEXIBILITY WHEN IT COMES TO TIME (AND LOCATION).
In other words: If the participant can’t make it, they’d miss out. It’s impossible to find and commit to a time that will suit every single ‘student’, week by week. Important meetings, business trips come up, not to speak of holidays and sickness. Busy corporates are the ones that need flexibility the most.
ONE-ON-ONE LANGUAGE COACHING – AN OPTIMUM SOLUTION?
I believe that language coaching could indeed be the answer to all these problems. It allows maximum tailoring and flexibility as well as efficiency both time- and budget-wise.
A CASE STUDY – SALLY, FINANCIAL ANALYST, INSURANCE.
Sally works at the accounting department of a German insurance company with a branch and office in London. She realised that although it wasn’t essential for her to learn German to do her job, it would help her massively in understanding certain major documentations, specific email exchanges and also meeting and greeting German colleagues when visiting London.
The company organised group classes with 10 students studying at a time from various departments. Sally’s very analytical approach made her a bit of an outsider in the group:
She didn’t understand certain things that were clear right away to others, whilst she was an excellent and fast communicator compared to others who took more time to express what they wanted to say.
As the classes were on a specific day, at a set time with no flexibility, she couldn’t attend the lessons on days where an important business meeting was scheduled or they received visitors. This created an unnecessary difficulty for her.
The company then decided to invest into one-on-one coaching for some of their people. Sally took sessions on her own, where she could receive coaching that suited her personality, her preferred learning style and availability.
Her language skills skyrocketed immediately, making her confident in reading German balance sheets. She started to understand the gist of emails to then go on fully comprehend email exchanges between German colleagues that she was Cc-d into.
She was happy to welcome visitors from Germany, making a great impression by showcasing her new language skills, accompanying them to lunch or dinner. This helped Sally in no longer feeling like an outsider, and made her an active facilitator of good business relationships between the German and London office.
ANOTHER CASE STUDY – JOHN, MEDIA EXECUTIVE
John works as an executive for a media company with ties to Germany. He was assigned a private tutor to help him forge better relationships with his colleagues at the German headquarter.
John’s first tutor was a very nice and kind individual, patient and tailored the classes to his needs, but
the classes were very grammar focused which was not the approach that suited John’s communicative learning style. Also, he found that his teacher didn’t really get the nature of the business he’s in: a very fast-paced market with loads of ongoing mergers and acquisitions, he felt that his tutor didn’t really understand his actual issues and circumstances.
Despite the classes being tailored to his needs, John still felt that they were very school-ish.
John decided to hire a personal language coach. He liked the fact that his coach had a better understanding of business in general, and continued his studies with her help.
Even when learning or practising grammar, words were used that are relevant to John’s business field. This way, John mastered the structure of the language whilst not wasting time using irrelevant vocabulary and ever since then, he’s been enjoying the language journey he embarked on.
If you’re experiencing any of these issues and and would like to discuss how to resolve them, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can organise a time for us to have an initial chat.