Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 Language Barometer

I am teaching English again. A friend of mine went to France to attend his brother's wedding and asked me to substitute him for two weeks at a small Spanish company in Madrid. It's nice to be back in teacher's shoes and finally do what I was trained to do academically in the first five years of my University studies (I am a teacher of English and German, after all).

As is common, the company is trying to attract as much international customers as possible, and actually a large part of their customer base are non-Spanish speakers. "Firing" is a curse word in the Spanish language and it virtually does not exist in the Spanish legislation and business practice. Thus, since laying off the linguistically-challenged working population and employing new, young and internationally savvy workforce is not an option, the company is forced to arrange English classes for their employees. Some interesting observations:
  • 50% of those who are supposed to attend those classes (company-sponsored!!!) never show up;
  • the control from the company's side over the syllabus and student progress is hardly seen;
  • some students have been learning English for 4 years already, still are at the Intermediate level or so and the company continues to invest in their training.
I am only there for two weeks and surely I am not going to rock the boat and play the part of the indignant fiery revolutionary a-la Dolores Ibárruri, yet - I have seen it oh so many times when the sole purpose of the learning budget is simply to be spent.

I agree: calculating ROI on learning interventions is extremely difficult, but not doing anything about it is unacceptable. Sayonara.  

P.S. IE has just publsihed this article about the shifting perspectives on learning foreign languages.

IE and present the 2011 Language Barometer

Madrid, April 2011. IE Business School and, a European online community for learning languages, have conducted the 2011 Language Barometer survey, the world's largest online report on the future of language learning. More than 16,000 people from over 150 different countries took part in the survey which was carried out in March 2011.
37% of the people surveyed believe that one of the best ways to learn a language is online. 24% specifically identify Web 2.0 platforms as the most efficient way to learn a language and 13% prefer individual online language learning. 32% of them believe that language courses abroad are the most efficient way to learn a language.

The lifetime average amount spent by survey participants on language learning is around 750 euros. More than 17% have spent even more than 1,000 EUR (1,400 USD) on language learning over time. 71% of them believe that the ability to speak a foreign language will directly improve their financial situation.
The reasons that people learn a new language are changing. The people surveyed want to learn a foreign language for travel (37.7%), business (35.7%), fun (37.1%), school/university (27.4%) and personal/family reasons (22.1%).

Regarding the difficulties found when learning a new language, 24% say that they don't have time, 16% think it is hard to keep up the motivation, and 15% believe that not having access to native speakers hampers their learning process.

82% of the people surveyed believe that knowing a foreign language in the workplace is important.  The report shows that 40% of companies actively support their employees when it comes to learning a new language.

52% of the people surveyed believe that the language of the future is English, 23% chose Mandarin and 8% Spanish. The rest are split between languages that include French, Japanese, Arabic, and German.

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