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Training in Foreign Languages and Cultures
Guidelines for training foreign students

Unfortunately the British and Americans tend not to be fluent in any language other than their own. When compared to other nationalities such as the Scandinavians and the Dutch, we are truly put to shame. English is spoken widely, and few other countries speak Swedish or Dutch, which makes it easier for them and harder for us. However, this is not a good excuse for refusing to learn even a few words of someone else's language.

Whatever our level of linguistic expertise, most of us still have a problem when faced with a class of foreign students. Of course, the problem is minimized if all your students speak excellent English. In this case you should be able to train the course in the same way as you do for English students.

It is often assumed that the course should be presented in the students' own language and that all the materials should be translated if their command of English is less than perfect. Luckily, there are several levels of translation that can be applied and this can be critical when time or cost is at a premium. Table 1 shows the relationship between the level of translation and the standard of English.


HighEnglishEnglish English
GoodOwn languageEnglishEnglish
FairOwn languageOwn languageEnglish
PoorOwn languageOwn languageOwn language

Table 1 Relationship between language ability and the level of translation

When the language ability is very high, all the presentations, materials and exercises can be in English.

Where the command of the language is not perfect, but still very good, the presentation and materials can be in English but participants should be allowed to complete the exercises in their own language. It is still possible to use English trainers. If a translator is not available they will have to rely on their knowledge of the course, body language and tone of voice to understand what is going on. This is not as difficult as it might seem, because a trainer who has intimate knowledge of the exercises will soon be aware of any problems or difficulties. It is then just a matter of intervening and asking what is happening.