IATEFL BESIG World Blog


Welcome to the BESIG World Blog. Each month we’ve got a different guest author lined up who will be sharing thoughts and experiences on teaching business English from countries around the globe.

  • A TALE OF A BUSINESS ENGLISH PROFESSIONAL: Part 1

    During BESIG 1st Online Symposium,  in June 2016, two BE trainers from different continents, one in Europe and another in South America, began a very interesting chat about the lives of Business English trainers in their own countries.  They have very kindly accepted to share their views in our Blog. Today, we show you Part 1 of these interviews to Kirsten Waechter from Germany.  

     

    Hello Kirsten, thank you for being with us today. Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself? 

    I am a business English teacher and business communication skills trainer. But as I get bored easily, I also work as an intercultural trainer, which helps a lot when you work in international business of course. In addition, I work as a translator, author, advisor, examiner and I do teacher training as well. I am based in the west of Germany where it is quite easy to find work, and I also spend a lot of time in Scotland, my second home, and on my island in Sweden.


    Which were your first steps in the Business English world?

    Like many fellow trainers, I did not plan to work as a business English trainer. I hold a master degree in media studies and English literature and was teaching cultural and media studies at the university. But at some point – around 18 years ago – I began to realize that I did not want to get entangled in all of those administrative duties and routine work. So I started working freelance learning the ropes of business from books, but, more importantly, from my students who worked in accounting, HR, sales and marketing and engineering. I liked it because I met so many interesting and different people and learned a lot. I would say that is still my motivation today because I really enjoy working with people.


    How was the market in your country at that time and how is it now?

    When I started in 1999, I did a lot of weekly extensive courses in large companies which were taken over by British or other foreign companies and suddenly their staff needed English. At that time, the situation was that native speakers of English were wanted as “the real thing”, so being bilingual helped. If you were a native speaker, often the schools did not expect you to have any teaching qualification: it was typical to get your jobs through language schools that had frame agreements with companies. I don’t think there was that much competition and companies invested a lot due to the increasing internationalization of German business at that time. Over the years, the market has got tougher. There is far more competition and teachers have to be highly qualified. But – they don’t get paid more. If you start today, the pay for extensive courses is quite often poor so I am happy that I have a good list of customers and a good reputation that allows me to make a decent living on what I do. Companies tend to invest less – they expect their staff to have acquired skills of business skills at school or uni. The Internet has changed things too – webinars and online sessions e.g. via Skype are far more common.

    There are so many labels for our profession: trainer, facilitator, etc…  How would you call yourself? 

    I usually use the word trainer. Teacher reminds people of school and my students often hated English at school so this does not go well for them, and coach is a label that you are only allowed to use in Germany if you have a coaching qualification which I don’t. Trainer also works in German and English and sounds very active so people expect that kind of course and that is what they are getting.

    Based on your experience, how would you describe the role of a BE trainer?

    Well, that depends on the definition. I think a BE trainer has to be some kind of all-rounder, as we need to combine language skills with communication skills, business acumen and intercultural awareness. You need to be able to identify what your students need and which strategies will help them to get there. Often the issues are less in the language itself, but in their communication style or their lack of reflection e.g. why a meeting or a negotiation went wrong. However, our customers often fail to see this kind of extra value they are getting and think “It is only an English lesson”. Which my lessons are hardly ever. I also find that you have to keep yourself up to date with what is going on in both the teaching world and the business world. 

    Are BE trainers represented in your country through a TA?

    Not that I know of. There are trade unions and teaching associations for teachers in general, but I don’t think that there is anything for BE trainers (apart from BESIG, of course). Teaching freelance online and in companies is a very lonely profession so it is very important to develop a good personal learning network to exchange information. Not only information on trends in teaching and business, but also on crucial things like tax and insurance which are often difficult to handle – when you move to Germany from abroad, of course, but also when you become self-employed in Germany and need to check out all those regulations. 

    In what ways do Teachers Associations help develop a professional profile? 

    Well, I think they could do that by offering further training and some of the information mentioned above, but also by helping to explain to the world what it is we are actually doing. That is something you have for translators or intercultural trainers so that people get a better idea of what they can are able to offer and how they are qualified.

    In your opinion, what are the perspectives for Business English trainers?

    I think that we have to communicate the crucial role we play as trainers in helping to prepare people for managing business situations in a foreign language. Even when I look at how some native speakers of English behave in a conference call or a meeting I go like “OMG, he cannot really speak like that, he needs to communicate better”. So I would say that apart from teaching business vocabulary, communication skills will be the big issue together with intercultural skills – I think you cannot really separate those two. I also think we need to prepare for different types and training offers too – and we need to make people understand that we are worth our money.

    Do you have a motto in your professional life?

    Yes: helping people do their jobs better and life-long learning are my two guiding principles. Thank you!

    Thanks to you, Kirsten for sharing your thoughts and experience with us.

     

    Dear Readers, we will soon be publishing Part 2 of A Tale of a Business English Professional. Don’t miss it!



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  • Five great ways to boost Language Trainer wellbeing

    Hello, 

    At BESIG, we’re inviting members who want to share their experience with our community in our Blog. Today, Phil Nash shares with us his ideas on teachers’ wellbeing.

    If you would like to write a post, you can contact dana.poklepovic@besig.org


    Phil Nash: 

    English Language Training can be the best job in the world when everything goes well.  You turn up on time, in the right place, feeling rested after a good night's sleep with a well-prepared lesson (and a good back up just in case), which you proceed to deliver to the best of your ability to an appreciative and engaged class.

     Unfortunately, things do not always quite go to plan.

     The biggest factor, in my experience, that affects our wellbeing inside, or outside, of work is control. Specifically, the feeling of being in control as far as is possible of our own schedule and workload. Feeling in control can be really challenging, particularly for itinerant English Language Trainers working across a large geographical area and dependent on public transport to get from A to B.

     My year working for Linguarama as an English Language Trainer in and around Dusseldorf (from early June 2013 to the end of June 2014) was a good experience, but one which was full of challenges. Looking back I was lucky to have a lot of excellent support. Naturally, I am quite an extrovert. I was never shy about asking anyone in the staff room or at Linguarama for help.

    Living abroad in a non-native English speaking country posed other obvious challenges. My principal reason for moving to Germany was to try to improve my German. I threw myself into the challenge, watching German television programmes, reading German books, signing up for Sprach Tandems and taking private one-to-one lessons.

     Networks are always incredibly important. Moving to a foreign land takes courage. I was fortunate to meet many great people inside and outside of work. That said, I found that I felt lonely more regularly than I had done previously back in the UK. Sundays could be especially problematic, especially when I was not in a relationship. In Germany shops are closed on a Sunday.  Sunday is a family day.

    1 Control

    See above. This can and sometimes must extend to saying no, particularly to last minute cover if you are feeling overwrought. This can be a real dilemma especially for freelancers. Open honest communication is important.  Making management aware of underlying conditions you may have can help maintain wellbeing of both managers and trainers while ensuring continuity of cover.

    Looking at the issue of control from a management perspective involves getting the appropriate individuals to the right place at the right time.  Do trainers have enough time to get from A to B and then on again to C?  Reducing stress out ‘in the field’ can reduce the likelihood of burnout.  Schedule builders do not expect your trainers to be superheroes, especially when they are reliant on public transport.  Try and have lessons close to one and another if at all possible.

    2 Develop a structured routine outside of work

    Make the most of living abroad. Building fun and stimulating activities into our weekly schedules makes us happier, more balanced individuals. Increasingly responsibility for HR falls to line managers.  Academic management should be vigilant for indicators that their trainers are becoming unwell.  Tell-tale signs that someone is feeling the strain may include: neglect of personal appearance, increasing irritability, making inappropriate outbursts or an individual wishing to withdraw from social situations.  Spending too much time in work can be a symptom of deeper problems, too.  Keep an eye out for trainers who are starting to look unwell.   Try to help new staff members to integrate into life outside of work.

    3 Have a cut off

    You are far more likely to deliver top quality lessons/training sessions, of which you can rightly be proud, if you are well rested. Prepare to the best of your ability, but do not let it take over your life. Wherever possible make the most of your students as a resource. Encourage them to bring in their own materials.

    Sleep is incredibly important.  Avoid looking at work emails, Facebook or other forms of Social Media just before you try to go to sleep.  Everybody has their own routines at the beginning and end of the day; try and work out what is best for you.  Interestingly, some large companies, such as Volkswagen, switch off their servers at weekends so that employees do not feel obliged to read their emails over the weekend.

    4 Make the most of ‘in company’ facilities.

    Make use of the staff canteen.  In a business where several trainers from a language provider are present, a DoS could make a deal with HR to ensure that language trainers enjoy any on-site subsidies that ‘regular’ staff usually enjoy.  In instances where this is not possible there may well be a sympathetic cashier in the cafeteria who is prepared to give you a discount.  Dana Poklepovic managed to secure free access to chartered buses for her trainers, who have to visit a company a long way from the city, in Buenos Aires.  Trainers chat to colleagues and students to find out about any benefits that you can enjoy and how you might access them.

    Drink plenty of water: being well-hydrated makes us function better.  Fill up your water bottle on-site.  Do not be afraid to ask for liquid refreshment.  In my experience, most students were happy to offer me a glass of water or a cup of coffee. Everyone has a right to be well-hydrated. 

    5 Keep things in perspective

    The first verse of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer always helps remind me of what really matters:

    God grant me the serenity

    to accept the things I cannot change;

    courage to change the things I can;

    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Remember try and keep way two communication going.  If you are concerned about a colleague’s wellbeing flag it up with your DoS or ADoS.

     

    Author Bio

    I am currently studying for a Masters in Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University in England.  Please take a look at my HR, training and wellbeing themed blog, The Eastern Wing and follow me on Twitter @philnashuk. https://theeasternwing.wordpress.com


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