During COVID-19: mastering the basics of your colleagues’ language

During COVID-19: mastering the basics of your colleagues’ language

Setting the scene

The situation, a few months before UK lockdown, concerned a UK-based chemical company which was due to second a Director to their busy principal East Asian office in Shanghai.

This was in preparation for the Director’s first time in China, so inclusion of Chinese cultural and social norms was crucial also.

The Director needed to speak and be understood regularly in the target language, also meet and greet employees, leaders and important clients, and understand key written information/signs.

They knew this would produce much better cultural trust, cooperation and loyalty with the Chinese team at all levels, so NOT relying solely on English.

The Google Translate app was helpful at pronouncing individual general words but was unable to deal reliably with anything complex.

The way of retaining the language was by practising basic pronunciation and chat with empathetic office colleagues.

Languages and level involved

Mandarin to basic level, specific to company.

Challenges faced

  • Cultural pitfalls and using the language with confidence.
  • Pronouncing the terms accurately and using tones clearly.
  • 1-1 required.
  • Time and commitment involved to get to the desired level.
  • Knowing how to interact and how to avoid causing offence.
  • Commercial and cultural native-speaker teaching expertise and suitable materials available.

The Solution

  • The customer contracted SEL Business Languages (SELBL) who have a national database of professional language trainers.
  • A time:budget-balanced duration was agreed to achieve the objectives.
  • One of our team of Mandarin native speakers delivered in a face-to-face, 1-1 setting.
  • For continuity, they were happy to also learn via laptop and video-based Zoom sessions.
  • The secondment has been postponed due to Covid19 but connections in Mandarin have been maintained via Zoom (business account) in preparation for travelling to China later in 2020.
  • The training package entails direct contact time with a 1-1 language trainer in hours, progress continuously reviewed, and dipping into an off-the-shelf materials pack (CD- and book-based).
  • In this way the customer continuously works through the learning process via steady hours put in, appreciative slower speaking colleagues, and real office practice and correction.

At SEL Business Languages we have a vast network of professionally qualified language trainers experienced in a wide range of scenarios, commercial and social. Get in touch to discuss your requirements.