The Pilgrims Business English Centre: A Laboratory for Change
Mario Rinvolucri, UK
Kristina Mullamaa has been teaching English and Swedish at the at the Language Centre of Tartu University in Estonia since 1996. In 2006 she defended her doctoral thesis on the profession making of liaison interpreters. Her research interests include cross-cultural issues, motivation and ethics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The above title makes broad claims and I need to justify them one by one.
A move towards bi-professionalism
The new management of our Canterbury E for B Centre is now looking to recruit people who have worked in specific specialized areas of business and who have also had a sound introduction to language learning and teaching. This means that this week ( fourth week in June, 2009) we have a teacher with a background in the City of London working with a student who acts as a financial consultant to a news-gathering agency. A teacher with a wide background in industry is doing a 1-to-1 course with a student with a PHD in Human Resources.
Pilgrims is going beyond the “ you explain your professional world to me” teaching, and taking on, where possible, bi-professionals, with one foot is EFL and the other in a specific business area. This is a powerful move forward, in my opinion.
The new 2-to-1 course
Here we are experimenting with a new model: two teachers and one student.
The advantages to the students, so far, seem to be as follows:
- more variety
- less eyeball-to-eyeball pressure than is often the case in the one-to-one situation
- the chance to be an observer of native speaker interaction, without the excessive “accommodation” and spoon feeding that can be inherent the 1-to-1 situation.
- the opportunity for the second teacher to “double” the student and discreetly provide him with language and correction in a quiet, non-interruptive way, sitting alongside him and a little behind him.
- for some execs the idea of two teachers all to himself may be a prestige boost….Yes, this is perhaps foolish but mayhaps prestige is made of such flimsy stuff!
Integrating the study of culture with work on language
Many business people are relatively innocent of an anthropological vision of culture and the relativism that this can usefully induce. The work we are beginning to do on culture
could add a lot of value to our language courses, though we still have to find a way of teaching cultural concepts efficiently to people who sometimes do not believe any of this needs to be on their map.
New mixings of both teachers and students
Can there be cases when two 1-to-1 students would benefit from joining a group of four:
the two of them and their two teachers?
We have not tried this grouping yet and so I cannot report on what exercises and forms may become possible.
Pilgrims E for B School joins Pilgrims Teacher Training in experimenting and innovating
For 30 years Pilgrims has offered business people decent, honest language courses but , until recently, it cannot be said that we have boldly innovated. We have lagged behind York Associates, the technical leaders in UK’s E for B , at least as far as publication is concerned.
All this is rapidly changing and the “wow” factor is growing in what we are doing.
If you are a an E for B teacher please watch this space for new developments.
If you are an E for B teacher please send HLT your own innovative ideas and enjoy the sharing that publication brings.
If you have a son, daughter or spouse who works in the business world and if you have not yourself yet taught these people enough English ( shame on you!) please think seriously of suggesting they take a short immersion course with us in Canterbury. They could find the experience fun and effective in a variety of ways we have not yet dreamt up.
Please check the How to teach English to Business People course at Pilgrims website.