How long left for English in London?
At the Business English UK conference yesterday, Evan Frendo gave an excellent talk about Specicifity in business English and ESP. As usual, he blended cutting edge research and everyman charm to deliver a well thought out and ultimately simple message; simple but worrying. The business English market is fundamentally shifting.
Evan showed a lot of evidence that companies and L & D managers are growing dissatisfied with the results from traditional classroom training because the trainer does not really know what the clients need and takes a guess. Even when the trainer is highly skilled, which, sadly, many are not, he does not have the specific knowledge of the clients’ target discourse to deliver the training really required. See Evan’s slides here
Companies are responding to this in two ways:
- Increasingly looking to researchers to investigate the language used in the specific discourse community and work directly with that community to deliver training, increasingly ‘on the job’
- Rejecting training altogether and sending delegates to spend time living and working in the target discourse community. For example, sending a German manager to Japan to learn how to work with the Japanese.
This idea is backed up by Chris Bowie, an embedded trainer at PWC China. At IATEFL Glasgow, Chris talked about the 70, 20, 10 rule where multi-national companies are increasingly expecting 70% of employee’s training to be delivered ‘on the job’, 20% to come from working with colleagues and only 10% from formal training. Watch Chris’s talk here.
This means that an ever increasing number of providers will be fighting over an ever shrinking number of clients in the future.
In my opinion, this makes intensive immersion UK based training particularly venerable. If clients are turning away from training where all delegates are from one discourse community, why would they send delegates to the UK to sit in a room with a trainer who maybe has never even been to their country and a group of people from wildly varied business and cultural backgrounds. Where’s the value?
If we continue to teach more traditional business English skills, I feel the UK global market share will continue to decline and the ‘immersion’ argument is no longer enough. We need to start selling our competitive advantage better and more clearly.
So, what do we have that no one else does:
- Immersion in English
- Variety of delegates
- Escape from the office
Immersion is attractive and will remain so but I strongly believe that this isn’t enough. Our key advantage, and one that you can only really find in the UK market is this: people from everywhere come to study here. This is such an advantage because it gives a real need for clients to pay attention to cultural awareness, requires people to revise their communication strategies and teaches people how to build relationships across cultures.
Compared to this, immersion is a side show. Nobody in London speaks to them anyway.
So, what should we be selling? The fact is, yes, I can sit in on your meetings, record your discourse, use concordance to produce an accurate list of the language you will need to use and ‘find your gap’ more accurately by being embedded with you in your community but, for anyone who has to deal with more than one other culture, the benefits of a week in the UK is immeasurable.
Only here can you really test your ability to conduct a meeting with a Japanese and a Russian at the same time.
Only here can you argue politics with a Brit in the morning and argue about how to cut the budget with 4 Brazilians in the afternoon.
This is a major competitive advantage but are we selling it? Most marketing departments I’ve worked with still talk about immersion and the training techniques we use. Everyone uses the same techniques it’s not better in London.
How can we make the sales people change their pitch? Well we have to change the way we teach. Currently, I spend almost all of my time teaching cultural awareness and soft skills, embedding language inside these skills. This gives delegates something they can’t get anywhere else.
What do you do in class and how can we same executive training in the UK?