A: In today’s multicultural workplace and economy, it is important for many employees to become multilingual. With companies of all sizes connecting with colleagues and clients across the globe via Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, language training is playing an increasingly important role, says Michael Schutzler, CEO of Livemocha (www.livemocha.com), which describes itself as the world’s largest online language learning community.
Use of on-site language training programs is increasing, compared to sending employees off-site for training, but Schutzler says the use of online language training is “exploding.”
The benefits of online language training include 24/7 access and the ability for learners to be taught by native speakers of the language. Time zone issues and, in the case of live online sessions, connectivity issues are the drawbacks. “A live, online connection is difficult to do,” he says. In some areas, “the Internet bandwidth isn’t strong enough to have a quality, long connection.”
However, some providers, including Livemocha, use asynchronous [learner-centered, independent] online learning, eliminating those problems and allowing learners to study at their leisure.
To help ensure the success of corporate-sponsored language training, Schutzler recommends that trainers identify employees’ training needs and make sure that each gets a solution that meets his or her specific learning objectives. For example, certain employees might need language training for a specific work function, while others might need conversational training.
In addition, he says companies might want to consider offering language training to employees’ families because employee engagement in the training is higher when it is also available to family members.
Schutzler suggests using a product that has a tool to track the learner’s progress and what type of activities he or she is engaged in. He also recommends tying the training to specific business objectives (e.g., learning to be more fluent in Spanish because the employee is working with a team in South America), as well as identifying the metric for success and how that will be measured.