Language Training for Business – Suitability Checklist
As you might expect, we spend a lot of time dealing with businesses who have already decided to embark on a language training programme.
But there are also many organisations who approach us wondering if they are in the right position to look at language training in the first place – whether for their staff or for the person making the enquiry.
So we’ve put together some thoughts on what you should consider if you’re contemplating going through a process of corporate language training.
Bear in mind that there are no right or wrong answers, with every organisation having different reasons for their choices. But it’s certainly worth taking the time to think through these questions so you can get a clearer understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. And – more importantly – why you’re trying to achieve it.
Corporate Language Training – The Basic Question
Lots of business projects end up getting bogged-down with detail and tactical issues before someone comes up with the idea of asking the question they probably should have started out with in the first place – why are we doing this?
And it’s no different when it comes to learning a new language. Fundamentally, before you start looking for a language training company, you should ask yourself why it is you actually want to learn a new language:
1) Why Do I Want People in My Business to Learn a New Language?
Pretty obvious, right? Well it’s surprising how many of our clients over the years have not easily been able to come up with a relevant answer to this question.
Some things to consider include:
– Trading with companies in different regions
– Dealing with a head office in a different country
– Dealing with satellite offices in different countries
– Dealing with suppliers in different countries
Or it may be that you’re actually just looking for your team to learn something new for Continuous Professional Development, or as a bonus for your employees. (See our blog post on Using language training to motivate and empower your workforce).
Once you’ve thought through the reasons behind the learning you’ll be embarking on, you should consider a range other things to gauge your suitability for the programme.
Corporate Language Training – Context Questions
As with everything to do with the corporate world, your decisions should be based on your particular situation and the context you find yourself in at the time you consider the options.
So, for example, a small business with a handful of employees who has no intention of trading internationally will approach the idea of language training from a different context to a large multinational.
Similarly, an organisation that trades primarily with South American countries might consider that Spanish will be the main language they’re after, rather than considering Chinese or Russian.
So it is this context of your particular situation that needs to be addressed with the next set of questions:
2) What Language/s Do We Want to Learn?
As with the above example, you should consider where you’ll be trading, or which countries you’ll be dealing with. Also, if you’re offering the language training as a “non-work related” perk, you should consider where it is your staff like to go on holiday, or ask them for a consensus of which language they’d prefer to focus on.
3) In What Environment Will We be Learning?
This is another of those questions that companies often neglect to think through when they start with a language training course. There are several options for how you can learn, eg:
– In house training with a tutor coming in to your premises
– Out of office training with your employees attending someone else’s premises
– At home training where a tutor comes to employees’ homes
– Online training where the majority of the lessons are conducted online (see our recent post about Online vs face to face training for more on this)
4) What is Our Goal for the New Language?
Something to bear in mind from the outset – you’ll want to be clear on the goals you have for the training. For example, do you want to be fluent in “business speak” – in order to be able to converse freely with suppliers and co-workers in a different country? Or are you looking for basic conversational fluency – so you can find your way around and have a basic understanding of what’s going on around you?
The answer you come up with here will have a direct bearing on the next question.
5) How Much Time Can We Invest in the Training?
As well as keeping your goal in mind, hand in hand with this question is to determine what time of day / day of the week you’ll be looking to have the lessons. It’s commonplace to have weekly sessions – either face to face or online – and our experience indicates that a regular time slot is much more likely to be successful in the long term than trying to arrange things on the fly.
Often with corporate training it makes sense to have the lessons during the working day – either as part of the work hours or perhaps in a lunch break. There are people, though, who prefer to have their lessons outside of work hours – either immediately after work or possibly at weekends.
So – you’ll want to decide on eg 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 20 weeks etc for the actual lessons themselves. (Which may be best arranged in collaboration with your tutor, outlining for them your end goal so they can determine how long it will take to achieve it). Then allocate a particular time slot and schedule the lessons in.
Time Input Outside Lessons
Be careful not to only focus on allocating the time for the lessons, though. All language training requires practice, so you’ll also need to spend time on your own reinforcing what you’ve learned in the lessons and following the “homework” that’s been set. (We know this might put you in mind of school and lead to feelings of dread, but in reality the only way to learn a language is to practice it in your own time as well as be guided by an experienced tutor).
So as well as the tutorial time, you’ll also need to consider the time you’ll need to spend on your own and factor this in accordingly.
6) How Much Money Can We Afford to Invest in the Training?
We’ve left this till last as – perhaps counterintuitively – it’s not really the most important question for a business to consider. If you’re convinced of the benefits of learning a new language, you should treat the process the same way you would treat any of your expenditure and allocate the maximum possible amount you can afford.
When you come to consider whether your business is suitable for taking on language training, make sure you bear these 6 questions in mind – brainstorming and recording your answers for each one.
After which you’ll have a much better idea of whether you’re ready to start with the learning, or there are still some areas you need to work on first.
A specialist B2B advisor. Ross fully understands the difficulties involved in learning a new language for business.
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