ExPatFacts – Language Training

Know More: Cultural Issues, Language Issues, Training Programs

I have been a college instructor of Spanish and have studied Spanish, Arabic, Russian, German, Urdu, and Hebrew.  I know what it takes to learn a foreign language, and I know how vital it is to be able to communicate in the local language.  I also know that many organizations, government and private sector, do an inadequate job of preparing their employees (and the families of the employees) to survive in a foreign language setting.

The U.S. Department of State trains diplomats for service abroad by sending them to the Foreign Service Institute.  The basic course for the “easy” languages is 24 weeks.  That means that the full-time occupation of the employee, for nearly 6 months, is to study and learn the language–the easy language.  Hard languages take a full year or more of full-time study.  The goal of the courses is to bring even the slowest learner to “minimal professional fluency”, or a 3/3 (speaking/reading) on a maximum achievable 5/5 scale. 

Unfortunately, many companies provide little or no language training, perhaps bringing their employees to a 0+/0 or a 1/0 level.  At this level they can receive and return greetings and ask where the nearest restaurant is–not very helpful during a coup or when negotiating transportation to the nearest safe place during a typhoon.  They can’t even tell a doctor “where it hurts” or how to contact their family.  And that isn’t good.

I ask you the reader to tell me about your company’s provisions for language training and how it worked for you.

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