Communication training can help your organisation - here's how.
Updated: May 1
Many organisations deal with non English speaking clients, but most staff just do not know how to modify their English when they're speaking to them. Until now, nobody has thought of showing them how to do it. This is a significant skills gap in the workplace, and one which can be resolved with training. To find out how our unique training sessions can enable your organisation to get past a language barrier, read on.
Am I really teaching native English speakers how to speak English?
Yes I am, and it gets great results. Here for example are the feedback scores I gathered when I trained staff at Baltic Gateshead-
Training staff in this teachable skill brings many benefits.
1. Engage with more people.
Most English learners struggle when they land in the North East, even the ones who have studied English. My student Zenu can speak a number of languages but this is what he told me-
Zenu has an intermediate grasp of English. If he's missing 60% of what is said to him, how much do you think the beginners are missing?
It is daunting to speak in another language. Non native English speakers are likely to give up and go away if they can't understand what your staff members are saying. Businesses lose customers this way, and if your organisation is a statutory service, you risk alienating members of the Black and Minority Ethnic community.
2. Cheaper than the alternative.
Interpreters are costly. There are certain situations where an interpreter is absolutely crucial, but there are others where staff should be able to manage without. If they have had the training they need, booking an interpreter will not be their first preference for every task.
3. Work more cost effectively with interpreters.
There will still be occasions when staff need interpreters. Given that they are an expensive resource, it may be cost effective to make sure that the professionals who use interpreters have some basic skills in communicating clearly in the first place. For example do they-
Keep their utterances short?
Avoid using jargon, idioms or other hard to translate vocabulary items?
Weed out superfluous information?
Interpreters are human, and few of them have native-level command of both the languages they speak. If the person leading the conversation is concise and unambiguous, interviews can take place in a shorter time and mistakes become less likely.
4. Better attendance
Let's take health services as an example. Missed appointments cost the NHS £216 million in 2018, and one of the most commonly cited reasons for missed appointments is communication failure (source.) Each missed appointment costs £30, substantially more if an interpreter has been brought in. Receptionists have the challenging job of explaining where someone needs to be and at what time, and yet they receive no training in how to do this for people who have Limited English Proficiency. I can help.
5. Improve customer relations.
I recently met with Councillor Habib Rahman who told me that relations between statutory services and immigrant communities are increasingly strained here in Newcastle. He blamed austerity. If your organisation provides services to vulnerable or impoverished people, many of them will have a language deficit. Skilled communicators are in a better position to build trust and rapport with their service users, diffuse their exasperation under difficult circumstances and help them more effectively.
What if you own a business or manage a corporation? A sales team who can develop a rapport with people who don't speak great English would be a great asset. Training staff to do this well is equivalent to tapping into a new market.
6. Ease the burden of stress on your staff.
"I went from totally unconfident about dealing with non English speakers to confident that I could make myself understood." Steve Haley, Baltic Gateshead.
Who wants to be faced with a daily task they don't have the skills for? If there is no agreed 'right way' to communicate with Limited English Proficiency clients, how are staff supposed to confidently proceed, or measure their success?
"This very short training session has opened my eyes to simple techniques I can use to communicate better with people who don't speak English" Anne Bonner, Riverside Community Health Project.
An English Unlocked training session will give your team plenty to talk about. They will come away with a whole host of strategies they can use and a fresh insight into how it feels to have Limited English Proficiency.
7. Avoid expensive mistakes.
One of my ESOL students has, on two occasions, attended a GP appointment only to find that the wrong language interpreter had been brought in. Certain communication failures can be costly, while others can have more serious repercussions. A 2018 report by Healthwatch Darlington raised concerns that GP communication issues could lead to 'preventable deaths' in the region.
8. Unexpected benefits in other contexts.
One of my tips is to slow down but not to stretch out each word. If you're speaking to someone who is reading your lips, they will find that helpful too. Another tip is to notice how confusing idioms can be, such as 'give you a lift' or 'keep an eye on it.' Non native English speakers aren't the only ones who find idioms confusing - people with autism do too.
The fact is that many of the skills I teach will improve communication with other client groups, for example people with-
A cost effective way to train staff.
When you send a staff member away on a training course there are two significant expenses. There's the cost the training package (including the transport to get to it.) Then there is the cost of having that staff member away from the 'coal face' for the duration of the training. Both of these costs are minimised with English Unlocked because-
My training takes place in your workplace.
The session lasts just 90 minutes.
A number of staff members can attend at once (a maximum of 14.)
My contact details are at the bottom of this page. To find out about prices and availability, or to learn more about how I can custom make the training to fit your organisation, please get in touch.