Working with Language Training Companies
Holding an English language training budget comes with heavy responsibilities. How can you spend this money with a proven language training company and get the best return on investment?
What Abbey Communication says
We asked our MD Alex Morgan to explore the answers to these questions and more. Questions such as ‘What is the right type of language training?', 'What language training does your employees need?', 'How do you ensure the training is successful?', 'What do people mean by ‘intensive’ or ‘extensive’ language training?', 'What is meant by the term ‘immersion’?' and 'How do you compare different methods?'.
Here are her 7 top tips for language training budget holders and for those involved in choosing a trusted partner in the language industry:
1. Establish your team’s development needs
Ensure you establish the language development needs of your colleagues/clients in as much detail as possible, before you engage in a selection process with providers. For example, if your company or team want to focus on English language training, ensure you can answer the following questions:
- What are the timescales?
- What is their availability for language training (would a 2-week immersion experience in country be more practical than attending a class once a week?).
- What are their levels currently? What can they do in that language currently?
- Who are the key people that need to improve their English?
- Why is learning English important to my company currently?
- How does improving these language skills contribute to our corporate or company objectives?
- How quickly do the candidates need to acquire the language and to what level?
- What is the budget available?
- How should I prioritise the budget?
2. Have a flexible approach
Have an open-minded and flexible approach to language learning yourself, “one size does not fit all” in terms of language learning. People have distinct preferences in terms of how they learn a language.
3. Know the differences between types of language training
Ensure you understand the difference between the different types of language learning experiences. Here are a few definitions to help:
Extensive courses: usually happen over quite a long period of time e.g. a term, a semester or an academic year. They can be convenient in terms of fitting the learning around work and family commitments, but progress can sometimes feel slow, and classes can often be missed due to meetings and other clashes.
Intensive courses: usually happen over a short period of time, where a learner commitments to a course full-time (often in-between 1 and 6 weeks of full time learning). Progress can be quicker than extensive courses, but the time commitment can be challenging for individuals unless supported by their company to do so.
Immersion courses: are a variety of intensive courses, and usually happen in country e.g. an English language immersion course will take place in a country where English is the native language. They are often complimented by a stay in host family accommodation. The host family provide cultural insights, and the training school provide the language lessons. The combination is very suitable for professional people needing to make quick improvements, and with a desire to increase their cultural understanding. Immersion courses can look like one of the most expensive options, but in terms of cost per hour of learning and return on investment, they can be one of the most cost effective ways to improve a language quickly.
Home stay: is often described as “living and learning under the same roof” where the host family also provide the language training. This can be both cost effective and culturally very interesting for the learner, however it is important to check that the hosts have professional language training qualifications, and sometimes the 24/7 relationship with one host can be quite intensive.
Online: online learning can either mean working with an interactive language learning package via your computer, or talking to a real individual via Skype or other on-line media. These options can be very cost effective and flexible, however learner motivation can dip quickly, and you must check the quality and qualifications of those offering virtual training very carefully. Virtual 1:1 training can vary a great deal in terms of quality as often it is operated by large companies with many different trainers, and it is possible that you will not get the same trainer twice.
4. Offer training options
Be prepared to offer a suite of language training options i.e. you may decide that some of your learners would be best suited to immersion, whereas some would be best suited to weekly lessons or on-line lessons. The choice obviously depends on their needs, and the speed at which they are required to pick up the language. Also be prepared to consider a combination of solutions e.g. 10-week extensive weekly training, complemented by a 2-week immersion training at week 5.
5. Ask for a trial lesson
When selecting providers, ask for a trial lesson or a discounted “try-out” course. Language training institutions are aware there is a lot of choice on the market, and the good ones will be comfortable sharing some of their expertise with you in a “taster” situation.
6. Ask for references
Another way to select a trusted provider is to ask for references, testimonials and case-studies. Real success stories are a great way to see how individuals and companies have benefitted from the training.
7. Evaluate effectiveness and results
Ensure you evaluate the effect of the training. There are many tests that can be completed on-line e.g. TOEIC, BULATS and these can be completed by the candidate before and after the training to measure the progress, however often a more effective demonstration of progress is to report back in the form of a presentation and question and answer session in the learned language. This way you can really see what the candidate is now able to produce. Make sure you really know what benefits the candidate has gained from the training, so that you know how to make the right choices again in the future.
In summary, setting out the goals of learning English as a foreign language, in England, and understanding the benefits to your business and your customers will help you find the perfect training company to suit your needs.
I’d love to hear your experiences of finding and working with foreign language training companies. What worked and what didn’t, and how did your company benefit? Also, what can training providers do to enhance the experience?