Let’s face it – the ability of hospitality and tourism staff members to communicate with customers in English is a vital attribute. After all, it’s hard to look after guests and create the right impression when you don’t share a common language.
Of course, many employees will have already shown a reasonable command of English to get the job in the first place, but that’s no reason to be complacent. In fact, I’d like to share a short anecdote to show you exactly what I mean.
Many years ago I was a young English teacher in Tokyo and one day I had to inform my boss that I’d finished the textbook we were using in class. He looked rather unimpressed and opened the book at a random page. “Can they understand this?” he asked, pointing to a dialogue set in a restaurant. I told him that of course they could. “And can they pronounce it properly,” he went on, “so everyone can understand them?” Well sadly I had to admit that even *I *couldn’t understand half of them, even when I had the text to help me. “So you haven’t actually finished then, have you?” the boss concluded.
In language learning there is always room for improvement – this is why training budgets exist – so if you want to raise the standard of English within your organization, here are some ideas you might like to think about.
There are many schools out there offering training programs, but to get the best results it’s crucial that you forge a strong working partnership with the right provider. The first step is to be clear and realistic about your objectives and expectations. For example, you can’t learn English in 30 hours, but you can improve specific skills, such as email or telephone communication, or you can give your restaurant staff’s listening skills a boost. The best schools will develop a course specifically to meet your needs. They won’t just sell you a general English course with a tired old textbook, nor will they promise the moon to make the sale, leaving the poor teacher facing mission impossible to deliver. Instead, the training manager (an educator, not a salesperson) will work with you to figure out exactly who your trainees are and what they need to work on. Therefore it’s critical to share your goals with the training company and ask them to specify exactly how they’ll achieve what you’ve agreed.
You can also help by creating the best possible learning environment for your staff. Don’t try to save money by putting too many trainees in the same class, especially if their English level or training needs are quite different. Be very wary of any school which tries to tell you that won’t be a problem. It’s also a bad idea to put the managers in a class with the maids – nobody will want to make mistakes in front of each other and that doesn’t make for a positive classroom atmosphere.
Finally, one last detail you can control is the room used for the classes. Different teachers like different layouts, but from personal experience I can tell you that the boardroom – with ten chairs around one huge table and everyone turning sideways to face the teacher at the end – is never going to produce successful outcomes.
If you bear these points in mind you’ll soon see positive results. Your staff will be smiling with the confidence that comes from knowing they have the language skills to handle everyday interactions, and that means your customers will undoubtedly be smiling too..