October 2009 issue

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Executive in the UK

Personalised courses, experienced teachers and fast-track learning or immersion; all of these features characterise executive language programmes available in the UK. Amy Baker reports.

The tutors must have the skills, experience and maturity to match the very high expectations of their students,” says Bill Godfrey of Manchester Language School, talking about the type of teachers employed to impart high-level and targeted language knowledge to executive language learners in the UK.

He makes a very interesting point about the profile of executive language learners at his institution. He says they are generally older, and senior, working with younger middle management executives who may well be polished in English. “This can create anxieties for [older] executive managers,” Godfrey relates, “and short total immersion programmes can address these anxieties”.

David Jones at ETC International College in Bournemouth attests to a similar approach when it comes to recruiting teachers: “Teachers and trainers with subject knowledge and relevant experience are selected so that the training can be better targeted and the client has greater confidence in the teacher/trainer,” he says.

Jones says that executive clients are likely to be given a project at his school, “so they can really perform well in a particular target scenario”. Meanwhile, at other schools, language training might include “business manners and etiquette”, as Elizabeth Hollingrove at Hollingrove Language Academy in Gloucestershire points out, or a lot of social English, as Godfrey underlines. “The overriding request is for ‘social’ English which stems from a desire to be as effective in informal settings outside business meetings as within them,” he says.

John Miles at Canterbury Language Training echoes this observation: “Elements of cross-cultural training and soft skills training are being increasingly integrated into training content,” he observes. “For example, we now offer a three-day ‘fine tuning’ programme for senior managers at advanced levels of English dealing with broader communication skills issues.”

Other trends observed within the executive language training sector include an adoption of authentic and up-to-date materials and, says Zoe Box at Crest Schools of English in London, “online learning for pre-arrival and post-departure”.

Site visits were once a fairly typical feature of an executive training course, allowing students to meet employees in a similar industry in the UK. But John Barnett of Cambridge Academy of English – and current Chair of Business English UK – ventures that “site visits seem less important than in previous years”. Likewise, Judith Hands of TIS in Torquay sees these as increasingly irrelevant: “We think site visits are a waste of time. The client might perceive this as very useful but it seldom is, and I don’t think it is our job to arrange site visits,” she says. At Lydbury English Centre, Stephanie Glasbergen notes that these are not offered or provided by the language school; rather, professionals are invited to dinner with students to achieve cross-business and cross-cultural synergy.

Barnett explains that demand for intensive and personalised courses are a response to shortened schedules. “We opened the CAE Professional Centre in 1994; average course length was just over three weeks. Last year, the average course length was 1.7 weeks.” He elaborates, “The clients want to spend more time with their teachers, who have to be qualified English teachers and demonstrate a keen interest and awareness for the client’s area of work.”
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