Is “Good Enough”

Good Enough for your Assignees?

Being ‘good-enough’ has never described your international assignees. Rather, they are dedicated, hard-working, and motivated individuals. Yet why do we see so many international assignees decline their language training? Many think their time is better spent elsewhere and that their language skills are ‘good enough’. We believe your international assignees should excel and that continued language learning at the advanced level is well worth the investment. Read on to see why.
Consider two expats– we’ll call them Klaus and Juliette. Klaus’ emails and written work could be mistaken for any native speaker’s. However, he struggles giving presentations because of pronunciation issues, spontaneous speaking errors, and a lack of confidence. Klaus’ advancement at his new workplace is suffering because of this, and his management is keeping a close eye on his international assignment.

On the other hand, Juliette’s tone is often misunderstood over email and she frequently finds herself picking up the phone to clear up a miscommunication. Juliette can engage anyone in conversation, professional or social, and communicate effectively – so why isn’t that fluency present in her writing?

Both Klaus and Juliette have different skill sets due to the way that they’ve learned the target language and applied it in their daily lives. However, neither have everything they need in that language to be 100% successful in their roles. These expats are both advanced learners and may decline their language training because of it – but both assignees (and their companies) would benefit from language training specifically focused on their advanced needs.

Every day, we are seeing an increasing need for advanced language training. More expats are being assigned to workplaces conducting business in languages they’re very familiar with. We know that these advanced expats require customized, focused planning and fresh ideas – so we train our teachers to be able to meet that need. In fact, IOR’s latest Language Trainer Professional Development Webinar Series was focused on customizing language training for advanced learners.

The journey between starting a new language and reaching near-native proficiency is no easy task, and the progress certainly isn’t a straight line. It oftentimes looks like the crazy journey depicted here – there are highs and lows, some regressions and accelerated advancements, periods of plateaus, periods of improvement, and more. Advanced students are at higher risk for these common language pitfalls, due to lack of motivation, time, or practice, which can stall the overall success of international assignment.


Here’s why IOR recommends
language training for the advanced expat:

  1. Skill building: Advanced lessons can focus on specific skills that the expat needs assistance with; informal email writing, understanding speakers of other languages speaking the shared language of business, presentation skills, leading a meeting, business lunch conversation, technical vocabulary, etc.
  2. Language maintenance: Advanced learners are at risk of language fossilization – concreting errors into their working memory due to lack of practice of the target language.
  3. Accent Reduction: Any student is welcome to work with a Certified Speech Language Pathologist on accent reduction (specific fee structure applies), but we find that it is most beneficial for advanced students who can fine tune their focus on pronunciation.
With language training focused on the specific, yet different, skills that both Klaus and Juliette need to improve, they are sure to make the most out of their international assignment, their next presentation, and more. Advanced language training can help to maximize the impact that each international expat has while on assignment.

Rita Hess
Senior Manager, Language