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Five Ways to Improve Foreign Language Training

Experts say goals, job-specific training and human interaction are key to picking up a foreign language for work.

May 16, 2013
The biggest challenge with corporate language training is the time and effort it takes to become proficient. "It's not a problem you can solve immediately," says Chuck Frydenborg, senior director of corporate sales, North America for Rosetta Stone, a language learning software company.

But it can be done. Experts offer this advice on how to make the most of corporate language training programs.

Set goals: If employees needs to be proficient in a foreign language to do their jobs or to get promoted, let them know exactly what that means, what their timeline is and how many hours they are expected to invest in the training, says Duane March, a language trainer for Mindstorm Group, a training company in Mannheim, Germany. "Then make proficiency part of their performance review."



Offer job-specific training. Whether in the classroom or online, the most effective training programs are shaped around the trainees' jobs and industry, says Julia Bonnheim, director of marketing for Livemocha. When courses include common business phrases, examples of emails or phone calls, and specific business documents, it makes the training much more relevant and engaging.

Offer some human interaction: You can have the best self-paced training course, but if the learner never gets feedback, it is hard to stay motivated, Bonnheim says. "Practicing with a native speaker creates engagement and gives learners a reason to keep trying."

Make it a priority. If learning a language is a strategic business goal, employees should be given time during the workday to take the training, says Melissa Caldwell, a customer care representative for Rosetta Stone. Best Buy Inc., for example, lets retail employees take up to eight hours per month of on-the-job language training to accommodate the increase in Spanish-speaking customers.

Require employees to communicate in the new language while on the job. Ask them to speak that language in certain business meetings, give them foreign language versions of corporate software, or require them to use the language when emailing certain colleagues, March suggests. "It will take time, and they will make mistakes, but it will help them build their confidence and their proficiency."



Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in the Chicago area. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.