Guest Post: Online versus Face-to-Face Language Training for Expats

Before the worldwide lockdown, many of us English Language (EL) teachers, and even some students too, seemed resistant to embrace the digital wave of language training online. In fact, face-to-face English lessons continued to be a comfort zone for tech-shy EL teachers. However, current circumstances have forced us EL teachers to learn to use new tools to deliver lessons in virtual classrooms.  


In my opinion, as an English Language Teacher, the same principles apply when you teach face-to-face vs online teaching. These are:


  • The focus is on engaging students, igniting their interest in learning. 

  • Get to know your students, learn what excites them.

  • Promote peer interaction and encourage students to think critically, allowing them to be creative. 

  • Monitor their learning and guide them through the process.

  • Ask many questions or quiz them constantly to assess their learning.

  • Constant modelling and scaffolding.



As an English Language Teacher myself, I can say that in my experience online language training has the following difficulties and advantages:


Difficulties of online language training:


  • Students may miss the teacher's body language during an online teaching session.

  • Students taking an online language course can get easily distracted in a familiar environment (their home) and miss the language and grammar instructions.

  • Teachers may not get enough feedback from students when the camera is off.

  • Teachers may feel isolated teaching through a virtual classroom, due to the feeling of lacking human connection (in-person). 

 


Advantages of online language training: 


  • Virtual lessons provide new ways of engaging students through technology, using virtual platforms.

  • Online lessons solve the distance problem, you can take an individual or group language training course from anywhere in the world.   

  • Online language training courses are interactive, they include a variety of activities that fit different learning styles, videos, texts, presentations, discussions, so students get to practice their oral expression, reading, writing, and listening skills.

  • Students get the chance to practice their listening skills more actively and improve them since many times the students do not have the camera on (online group courses) they focus their attention more on listening to instructions and pronunciation. 

  • Teachers can still build rapport with students. They can be there for them, be reliable, and dependent, answer their questions, answer their emails, support and guide their language learning experience.



Why is this important for expats?


"To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world." Chinese Proverb 
Globalization and the internationalization of companies entails new challenges. Expatriate lessons allow us to connect virtually with people from anywhere in the world, which is already a rich experience in itself, as it opens our knowledge to other cultures. Exposure to cultural awareness through language training is crucial, especially if you are an expatriate going through the various stages of the relocation journey.  A language and migration study from the University of Alcalá showed that expatriates' proficiency in the host country's language facilitated their cross-cultural adjustment and their interactions with locals.  Additionally, the study found that a high level of proficiency in the host country's language can enable the expatriates to adopt appropriate work values and behave appropriately in the workplace.


As we can see there is a high correlation between language skills and cultural adjustment, resulting in the impact on retention of the host country's assignees. This is why it is particularly relevant when teaching expatriates to include cultural awareness in our language lessons, bring our knowledge of the culture from the language we are teaching, and share it with our students, this will help them to find meaning in the cultural differences and adjust to the culture of the host country. 
The world is getting smaller, advances in technology allow millions of people to connect in real-time through various digital channels. The best online learning platforms are available to us to help us learn a language more efficiently. We can choose from live individual online classes or live online group classes. And if we prefer in-person language training we can choose to take Business In-company, face-to-face one-on-one language lessons or face-to-face group language classes.  Language learning is available to everyone!
Guest post by: Nora Ceja of Eszett Business Language Services who provide customized and adaptable classes for corporate and private students, including face-to-face lessons in 60 countries and virtual lessons via the Learncube Online School platform.