In today’s tight job market, English classes help retain employees and benefit your bottom line. At Capital Region Language Center (CRLC), our experienced teachers assess each student to create a customized plan, focusing on the specific skills and knowledge to be better on the job.
Linda Wien has been teaching Business English at CRLC for over a decade, working with employees of local businesses, international corporations, government agencies, unions and colleges. While there are many online options out there, she says personal attention is key to students reaching their goals.
“We’re hired because we have the skills to pick up on things we hear and adjust on the spot. We never just assign people to class or curriculum without proper assessment. That feeds back to the efficiency and specificity we can offer employers. Even within a small group there may be different needs, but we can pivot and produce results quickly.”
Before becoming an English language teacher, Wien, who has also taught English in Hawaii, Guatemala and Nicaragua, owned several small businesses. She draws on her own employee experience to help guide her lessons. While every situation is unique, she does see common challenges among her students.
Depending on a student’s native language, there may be certain sounds they struggle to make when speaking English. Wien recently worked with a sales representative for a large insurance company. Despite being in the US for 30 years, her customers and colleagues were frustrated because she couldn’t pronounce the name of the company and her supervisor correctly. Wien quickly identified the problem, and after just ten hours working together via video calls, the woman corrected her pronunciation. She kept her job, saving her company the cost of replacing her.
For those working in government, the path to promotion often involves passing civil service exams. Wien has worked with several members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) through CRLC’s voucher agreement with the union. She says many are longtime employees of the State of New York and have been recommended for promotion. “They may have strong communication skills or be an effective accountant, but if English is not their native language, they often struggle because civil service exams are grammar intensive, requiring strong sentence structure and composition skills,” she explains. Wien says she and fellow CRLC teachers can focus on preparing students for the exam.
According to the Harvard Business Review, English remains the dominant language in international business, but Wien says idioms that native speakers take for granted (ex: eating out; taking off; raining cats and dogs) can be a major hurdle – especially when employees are expected to collaborate with others. Wien recalls working with post-doctoral engineers from Taiwan and South Korea at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE). “They were brilliant, spoke English well and had excellent writing skills, but struggled with casual conversational expressions,” she explains. “Once they had a better grasp of common idioms, they socialized more easily, leading to more collaboration on the job.”
Method of English Acquisition
How someone learned English often determines what areas need improvement, according to Wien. More than one in five working adults in the US speaks a different language at home. If someone learns English by hearing and speaking, they may give a terrific presentation, but struggle to write a report. Others may send great emails but find it difficult to understand and communicate on video calls. Working with two employees from the same pharmaceutical company, she said one needed to improve his grammar while the other needed more confidence speaking. Because she can adapt to each student’s needs, she says employers are often surprised how quickly they see results.
Today, Wien says companies are more attuned to potential problems caused by miscommunication – especially if a comment is misconstrued as inappropriate. Wien says she recently worked with a high-level tech executive who never learned the difference between the “ing” and “ed” suffix with adjectives. “’You look amazed’ and ‘You look amazing’ have very different meanings – especially coming from a boss,” she explains. “Working one-on-one or in a small group, you get students talking and pick up on these things. If I hear something, I can immediately address it and explain the social connotation and context.”
At a time when employers are struggling to hire and retain workers, Wien says English language classes for new and existing employees can deliver a clear return on investment. For more than 20 years, businesses and organizations of all sizes have trusted Capital Region Language Center to provide customized language instruction – not only in English, but Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Arabic and more. Read about their experiences or contact us to discuss how we can help your team – and bottom line.