Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Issues of Global Corporate English - Part II

Part II 

Typical measures taken by corporations to address English language training 

In order to introduce English and to train up their personnel, most companies adopt a similar approach.

Conventional English classes are offered.

Conventional instruction is often not very effective, since:
      they often have no direct relevance to on-the-jobs issues
      many people simply do not function well in a “class room” environment
      Instruction takes place too infrequently: typically 1.5 to 4.5 hours a week

External providers are sought and chosen very often on the basis of cost and convenience.

The low-cost provider is often not the best provider.
      Low cost providers hire low cost trainers.
      Low cost providers either provide only standard instruction.
      Tailoring English training to a employee‘s or organization‘s needs takes time and money.
      Effective trainers need to have at least some sense for the business issues affecting their students. Such trainers are not always easily found.

HR / Personnel is made responsible for foreign language training
HR is often lacks the skills or knowledge for effectively guiding a foreign language training program
- Foreign language training is unlike any other kind of learning
HR has many other priorities.

HR – or whatever other organization is responsible
– fails to provide an effective plan for developing those resources who most need to improve their language skills.
– does not effectively or consistently measure the progress or efficacy of language training.

Language instruction is a low schedule priority
      It is somehow something “extra” that should in no way take the employee away from his job for „too long“.

If foreign language skill is not a truly corporate priority, why introduce English at all?
      The low priority of language training is communicated to employees.
      Employees do not treat the training as part of their job.
      Language training is something “extra” that the company provides out of the good of its heart

Prerequisites for making English a practical and effective means of corporate communication

A corporation must decide whether it is serious about what it states.

Is making English the effective corporate language really a corporate priority?
      There are obvious reasons for answering “yes”.

Then a corporation should “put its money where its mouth is”.
      Learning, improving, using English effectively must be treated as an important part of an employee‘s job.

A corporation must, in effect, first “talk the talk”, e.g.

All newsletters and other country-wide / corporate wide communication should be composed in English.
      A vocabulary / phrase list providing native language translation can transform such communications into an English learning tool.

All internal assessment documents, tools, office software versions should be in English.
      Tutorials can be offered explaining, e.g., that “Save as…” means (e.g. in German) “Speichern unter…”

Other measures can be taken in the short term.

The important thing is communicating that:
      the company is serious about this, and
      that English is an important part of the job.

After “talking the talk”, a corporation must then “walk the walk”.

Provide effective, practical English training that is geared to the needs of each team, department and organization.
      Training should be based directly on current issue, initiatives, presentations relevant to the organization‘s daily work (more about this later).
      Training should be effectively integrated into an organization‘s work day.

Make the demonstration of English skills part of an employee‘s performance review process.
      Tie performance bonuses and promotions to an employee‘s English communication abilities.
      Provide intensive training (40-50 / week) to employees who need be effective abroad within a short time (e.g., engineers).
      This costs money, yes... but if someone is needed abroad, the cost should be worth it.

I will say more about intensive training in Part III

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Issues of Global Corporate English - Part I


"English is the international language of this corporation." 

"English proficiency is a strategic priority."

Such statements regarding corporate strategy and English language proficiency are common -- and can strike both managers and employees with consternation.

The mission sounds a lot easier than it is -- and global corporations have been struggling with it for decades.  
  • Why are most global corporations still having problems making their employees into productive English communicators?  
  • Why do many employees spend years in various English classes and seminars and are still unable to apply English with confidence and competence in their international communication? 

This is the first part of an attempt to address issues affecting Corporate English training and productivity.

THE ISSUE (much of this will appear obvious to you)

International companies desire to use English as the standard corporate language:

– in order to communicate effectively between the various country locations

– because English is the most widely used language in international business

– because – in contrast with Middle and Far Eastern languages – English uses the internationally standard character set (Roman letters).  

Difficulties and Obstacles

Rendering English – or any foreign language – into a truly effective language is not easy.

– People will struggle to use English on the job, but

– They will always prefer their native language when English is not necessary.

– Constant and frequent practice is, however, vital for communicating in a language - at a productive level and - within a foreseeable time frame.

– People using English often need it to communicate with other non-native English speakers.

– Other non-native English speakers also often have difficulty expressing themselves clearly.

– English communication...
   - especially live (face-to-face, telephone) or
   - near live (email)
   ...can therefore lead to misunderstanding and frustration.

– Clear communication can be vital to company initiatives – its absence can be potentially very damaging.

Due to lacking English skills,

– documentation must often exist in both native language and English versions.

– Translations are, however, often not completely precise, and

– there is a lot of time-consuming duplication of effort.

– Costs are also associated (professional translation).

In Part II, we will look at the typical measures that corporations take in order to address these issues.