12.2.3 How to develop foreign language competence in the company?

Principally, there are two possibilities:

  1. Employing professional experts who speak a foreign languages e.g. because they come from or were trained abroad. An advantage is that those people, besides speaking the language, have knowledge of the cultural background and know-how needed to establish useful contacts.
  2. Train company staff. There are a lot of courses offered by private and public training providers. Check what the learning concept is. There are still courses based on reading, translating and answering questions! Pair and group working and the use of audio-visual media should be standard.

Is it better to look for a course with a native speaker as the tutor? For beginners, to learn the correct pronunciation with a native speaker will be useful. Generally, however, a qualified national teacher is sufficient for this purpose and you can (and should) also use audio sources (discs, TV-spots, internet and other programmes) to work on the correct pronunciation. Often, beginners learn better with teachers of their own nationality. Native speakers are needed for conversation at a later stage of learning.

Learning with new types of media as a useful learning instrument for exercises and testing but communication is a complex social activity: voice, face, body language, changes to the tone of speaking, listening and replying are elements which need face-to-face interaction.

Learning in the workplace and in-house is very useful. In practice though, if a course is organised in the company, employees sometimes arrive late or leave during the course due to work commitments (“Mrs Y, there is a phone call for you …”). This is different when the training takes place outside the company. Generally, for concentration, exercises and self-studies, it is better to have 90 minutes twice a week instead of four hours once a week. You should discuss the training needs with the training provider in detail and ask for the methods and experiences of the trainer. There are simple tests (attachment) which can be used by you and also by the trainer to get to know the needs. It can be useful combining the language training with another subject, e.g. intercultural training and presentation techniques, if appropriate. The best impression of perfect language skills will be ruined if the speaker is unable to handle the transparencies or the PowerPoint Presentation. Please have also a look at 4.3 of this guide – the 6-3-5 Method, point 4.3.3. There you can find an exercise on creativity, written brainstorming. And the presented model table deals with ideas how to improve the knowledge of English in the company. Perhaps you find a good suggestion there or will use the method in order to find a good solution in your organisation.

Please stop and think:
After reading the pros and cons of different training possibilities, what would be the most convenient one(s) for you or your organisation?
Take note of your idea and start implementing it in practice. You can also try some (free of charge) online learning tools which are listed in the references in order to find out if they would suit you.