Why face-to-face learning is better for your bottom line

All businesses have one thing in common – the bottom line.

The need to consider how everything the business spends will impact that bottom line is what makes the idea of training your staff to improve their language skills through distance or online training programmes so enticing.

The appeal of lower costs and ‘learn when you like’ convenience is undeniable, but few training directors realise that scrimping on face-to-face learning is a false economy – and actually ends up costing the company more in the long run.

Although it sounds good initially, it lacks the efficacy of face-to-face training and often leads to poor learning retention and ingrained bad habits.

Many have to retrain or refresh their staff when large chunks of knowledge are lost in a short space of time, which makes the savings inefficient. Additionally, distance-learning programmes are rarely flexible and a large proportion of what your staff learn will be irrelevant to their role.

Face-to-face interactive learning leads to increased learning retention and greater flexibility of course content, and is a better investment for your business in the long term.

Here's why:

Nuance

You want your staff to learn a language because they need to conduct business with human beings, so it makes sense that they should learn from a human being – complete with cultural quirks and mannerisms.

All communication around the world is based on a complicated combination of facial expressions, tone of voice, modulation, volume, hand gestures, speed of speech, body positioning and conveyed emotion. Simply memorising vocabulary is just a small part of actually being able to communicate fluently in a language and the complexity of these elements can only really be taught through direct contact, rather than distance learning.

We instinctively need to interact with somebody in person in order to take in the entirety of what's being taught. Once your staff come to use their language in practice, any inability to pick up on non-verbal clues will irritate existing or potential clients.

Because of this we offer our students the opportunity to be taught by more than one teacher throughout their course to expose them to a variety of dialects and mannerisms and the greater understanding of the nuances that come from this is invaluable.

Flexibility

Learning how to order two ice creams and a cocktail is great if you're planning a beach holiday, but pretty pointless for any business situation. Face-to-face learning gives tutors the chance to tailor the course content according to the needs of the business.

Our corporate clients have come to us for help with everything from reading and composing business emails to being able to convey health and safety requirements.

Other students have requested help in delivering a business presentation or speaking at an international conference, all of which were too specific for rigid distance learning approaches.

Just as the English used in boardrooms is very different to that used in non-business situations, all languages have their own variations depending upon the professional and non-professional circumstances and all have industry specific terms and phrases.

A tailored approach through face-to-face learning gives you the flexibility to set the parameters of the language course and make sure that the learning on which your staff are spending their valuable time and resources is relevant to what they need to further the business.

For example, the Marlow Language Centre is currently working with the European Tour to facilitate business French tuition for 20 employees in preparation for the prestigious Ryder Cup in Paris in 2018. The range of roles we're catering for incorporate the CEO, media communications director, guest services and hospitality director, finance director, digital director and client relations director among others.

A tailored learning approach has been able to offer bespoke tuition for each individual in relation to his or her role within the company in a way that ‘off the shelf’ distance learning wouldn’t have been able to achieve.

Feedback

Learning a language needs to be built on the correct foundations and any errors not identified at an early stage will become ingrained.

Quite a few students have attended the Marlow Language Centre having previously taken online language courses and, in terms of tone and pronunciation, our native-speaking tutor was barely able to understand them. Learning again was doubly difficult because they first had to un-learn the bad habits they had picked up.

Learning through direct contact with a tutor allows any errors – either in terms of grammar, vocabulary or just tone and pronunciation – to be addressed straight away.

Any manager knows that different employees have different working styles and process information differently, so it stands to reason that a one-size-fits-all approach to language learning is ineffective.

Our tutors are able to work with the student’s natural learning style to make sure the information is being processed correctly.

Some students perform better when the whole lesson is delivered in the foreign tongue and others cope better if some teaching is in English.

Being able to carefully observe each student in a lesson gives our tutors the opportunity to recognise how best to teach each individual.

Cultural sensitivity

The last thing any business wants is for their staff to offend or alienate.

Not understanding the cultural sensitivities of communication in any particular language leaves your staff open to making potential cataclysmic errors when communicating.

In most cases, staff will be trained in a language because they need to interact with natives from that culture. Education about the cultural norms within that country is as important as, if not more important than, the dialogue itself.

Where textbooks or distance learning are more rigid and unable to move with the times and the richness of how language develops, being tutored by a human being means the language you are learning is the most modern and up-to-date version.

All our teachers are native speakers of the dozens of languages we offer. Of those that now live full-time in the UK, most still have family back in their homeland and travel regularly between the cultures.

Cultural sensitivity really does matter and it's not something you can learn from a book. Immersing your staff in a situation where they actually have to interact with a native speaker on a regular basis, is the only way to truly ensure they understand the cultural behaviours well enough to fit in and impress.

Focus

Distance learning may be convenient but it rarely leads to being able to concentrate on the subject and is ineffective.

Staff sitting at their desks will still be in the line of fire with colleagues asking questions, and they will have to deal with incessant incoming emails and the other distractions of a busy office.

While some of our corporate clients invite us to their place of work, to conduct training in a specific area, others are excited to work with a language school which offers a dedicated premises and an academic environment, with good transport links and easy parking, so their staff can concentrate on the lesson and retain a greater proportion of the course.

All businesses need to keep an eye on the bottom line, but trying to make cost savings on ineffectual language courses won't benefit your company in the long term.

Running the risk of your staff offending or alienating important business associates by not understanding the nuances of the language and culture is too great a gamble for your company to make.

Face-to-face interactive learning is the most efficient and effective way for your staff to learn a language.

In the long run, your bottom line will appreciate it too.