In an international market, language skills can be the difference between success and failure – to building a new business relationship, making a big sale to a foreign client, or managing an overseas relocation, for example.
However, language skills are difficult things to purchase. Most of us have terrible memories of learning languages parrot fashion, spending years slogging away in a classroom, only to go to the country where they speak the language in question and not understand a word of what anyone says. This is not an attractive proposition for Training Managers!
Fortunately, language training has come on leaps and bounds, much of it driven by highly targeted courses demanded by companies around the world. Language lessons are now communicative, participative, targeted, measurable and multi-media driven.
Courses are tailored by experts and delivered by trained native-speaker professionals using the latest pedagogy. They are supported by online platforms, dynamic reporting and top quality account management.
And if not, they should be.
But how to ensure that this is what you purchase for your team? Here is a brief 5-step Purchasing Guide on what to look for from your language training provider.
1. Pre-course preparation
From the initial contact to the delivery of the syllabus, the pre-course preparation process should be collaborative. Getting this right means the course will hit the ground running and no time will be wasted.
There are 2 key parts to this. Firstly, detailed Needs Analysis, both at company and participant level, looking at course content and objectives, the participants’ roles and backgrounds, timescales, schedule flexibility, and any budgetary considerations.
Secondly, for non-beginners, Level Assessment is vital to check current language competencies across the different skills with a particular focus on the training outcomes. Assessment methods can include online testing, phone interviews and samples of written work.
2. Syllabus and Training Framework Design
The syllabus must include the critical language scenarios identified during the Needs Analysis and ensure the language learned has an immediate impact on performance outside the training room. There should be the inbuilt flexibility to change content should new needs emerge.
The training framework identifies the optimum delivery methods – face-to-face, online, and, increasingly, a blend of the two. There should be high degree of flexibility, allowing a course to integrate onto busy, mobile lifestyles.
Materials should be selected and created specifically for the programme. These could include a course book, but not necessarily. Experienced trainers will provide targeted stimulus material appropriate to the level and needs of each learner.
3. Training Methodology
In face-to-face lessons, trainers should use a dynamic methodology with a strong focus on building the language skills required. Many lessons will, in practice, be communicative and task-based, with a strong practical emphasis.
For online content, courses can be increasingly customised to specific requirements. Resources should be multi-media and chosen to strengthen specific linguistic needs and, where relevant, complement face-to-face lessons.
4. Assessment and Reporting
In addition to on-going feedback and progress reviews, learners should undergo a more formal assessment at pre-agreed intervals. In this way, they can chart their progress and prioritise areas for further study. Assessments can be tailored, based on course content, or an international language test where appropriate.
This also allows the company learning and development professionals to track training progress, and to gain a closer understanding of the learner’s development as an asset to the company. Reporting should be online and dynamic, allowing on-demand access to course reports, feedback, test results and trainer comments.
5. Account Management
A company needs single point of contact who understands their training requirements and the context in which the training takes place. Some learners’ schedules are highly demanding and the training has to be as flexible as possible.
An effective Account Manager will be a liaison point for academic and logistical issues. They will ensure the training process is smooth and transparent, that problems are dealt with immediately, and expectations are met at all times.