Over the last few years, a growing number of American & European companies have started to ensure that their staff world-wide receive professional or management training via the medium of the English language. In an attempt to help fellow International Trainers, I would like to offer some suggestions for helping our internal or external customers get the most out of their course.
1. Use short words and short sentences
Frequently, our trainees have a high level of proficiency in reading written English. but a much lower level of ability in their oral/aural skills. In addition, the English language contain general words and highly specific ones. A simple example would be:
“Insert the High density IBM/ PS 2 compatible floppy disk into the appropriate receptacle.”
Put the floppy disk into the drive.”
As a general rule, it is better to use simple English which everyone understands easily rather than complex English that only half the group can understand. In general, the ideal type of language could he defined as “Only put one idea in each sentence.”
2. Use active verbs and concrete nouns.
Most modern English language courses start off teaching active language and concrete nouns to the learners. Research at a number of’ institutions in the UK and the USA indicates that approximately 78 per cent of the English language as it is used in daily life is composed of’ active sentence structures and concrete nouns and that the “Passive voice” is used less than 1% of the time IN SPOKEN COMMUNICATION! An example of this would be:
We investigated all the possible answers and we decided that the best one was. . .” (active)
“All the possible solutions were diligently investigated and it was unanimously decided that the most beneficial alternative, given the current situation, would be. . .(passive)
4. Illustrate general statements with specific examples related to the trainees own specific situation.
It is always much easier to relate theoretical concepts or statements to one’s own specific work situation. This does. however. imply that the trainer needs to do some research regarding this area before the course!
5. Avoid technical terms.
Remember, technical terms are usually easier to understand for the person using them due to familiarity (familiarity breeds contempt!). but very often the terms used or understood by the trainees are different. Obviously if it is clear that everyone knows the meaning of certain terms, go ahead and use them, otherwise use more generally understood ones. If you have to use technical terms, ensure that the exact meaning of each one is clearly defined as, and when they occur.
6. If you are a fast speaker, pause at the end of sentences, not in the middle.
If you pause at the end of each clause or sentence. the people listening have time to catch what you say, consider and process it mentally. If you pause in the middle of a clause or sentence, your stress and intonation become unnatural and difficult to understand.
7. Allow ‘Tune in’ time.
Every time you start a conversation the other person needs time to “tune in” to your speaking style; the way you use stress, intonation, etc. The vocabulary that you prefer, etc. This applies even more to foreign trainees. It is an excellent idea to allow them two to three minutes of neutral input before starting the course. This needs to be done after lunch or coffee breaks, etc. as well. A technique that I personally use is to give the trainees a brief review of the morning session and a guide to the afternoon one. After lunch, the next morning, etc., I ask the students to tell me what we had covered in the previous section and then give feedback on their comments.
8. Remember to always put important information at the end of a sentence and never at the beginning.
The English language. like many European languages. generally places the most important information at the end and the social marker at the beginning. For example:
If it is not too much trouble, could you possibly (Social) open the window?? (Content)
“What is your name?”
“My name is (Social) John. (Content)
Most of the trainees that I have met have been taught, incorrectly, to listen for beginning or social markers. but have great problems listening for, and understanding, the ending or content of the sentence.
9. Do not use slang or jargon.
It is well known that slang, like good wine, does not travel well. Our overseas trainees, as well as companions from different areas of our own country, very rarely possess an up-to-date knowledge of our local slang so it seems unfair to add an extra burden to their learning load. Only use Slang or jargon if everyone in the group understands it or if you are prepared to define your terms each time you use a new term.
This is psychologically and linguistically dangerous because it is usually interpreted as a threat or an order that the trainees justify some action or comment, etc.. If one asks a trainee a WHY question, he may or may not know the answer and will usually feel threatened psychologically. In addition, he may or may not have the English language skills or vocabulary necessary to explain the answer. It is much better to use phrases like:
‘Can anybody explain the reason for. . .
“Would someone like to tell us how. . .”
As can be seen from the above list. there are many areas that need to be considered when training non native speakers of English. I hope that these ten simple steps will help to ensure that all of our trainees receive the most from the training and come back for more!
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