My interview on Worldwide Business with Kathy Ireland will be soon so I will be taking a departure from the series that started with "6 Tips From a Global Entrepreneur on Building an International Startup." The times and dates of the airing can be found here. The subject of the interview is how language training is beneficial to both business people and corporations. I want to take a moment to describe the three requirements any business interested in foreign language training for their staff should have for the provider they choose.
Have A Human Teacher
In order to learn a language there absolutely must be a HUMAN teacher involved. Foreign languages cannot be learned through the use of flash card apps or even Rosetta Stone. There needs to be human interaction, someone there to practice with and ask questions of. Language training also requires a visual component that not many people realize is essential to becoming fluent. In order to pronounce many of the sounds and tones needed for Mandarin, I would actually watch the teacher's tongue and lip motions and try to mimic them in order to get the pronunciation correct. For these reasons and many more, without the human element, fluency cannot be achieved.
One of the main points of the interview is that the fastest way to learn a language is through studying subjects that people want or need to learn about. Although it is difficult to completely customize a language program to every student, it is possible to do so within the framework of an overall system. People working in finance should be learning about financial topics as early as possible, while the marketing department should be learning to speak about marketing. Learning about subjects that people need for their professions keep them interested and engaged resulting in a higher success rate.
Do Not Be Totally Tech Reliant
These are all areas where totally technology based language products like Rosetta Stone fail. There is no human interaction, which deprives language learners of some of the most important tools in language education.
These products rely on memorization and rote learning. The two problems with this are first that it is boring and second that it is nearly impossible to memorize the thousands of words and phrases necessary to speak any foreign language fluently.
On top of that they force each language learner into the same system and are almost completely void of any type of customized program. We don't all learn math the same way, or at the same pace. We're not interested in the same things or have the same needs. The same is true of languages. There needs to be at least some degree of customization in order to be successful and "one-size-fits-all" approaches, as most totally tech reliant approaches are, cannot do this.
Find programs that blend modern technology with more traditional teacher led sessions. Online courses that utilize video conferencing tools to bring the best teachers from around the world to clients anywhere are available and abundant. However, this is a case of "you get what you pay for," free classes are generally taught by teachers with no teaching certificate or experience. Many times they also want to practice their English more than teach. These programs generally do not have their own exclusively built training systems and learning materials. The programs that are successful use teachers that are certified, intelligent, and engaging. These teachers use carefully crafted learning materials and proven methods to ensure their clients are successful in as short a time period as possible.