Category Archives: Corporate Training

What problems do learners of English have communicating in English at work?

How learners perceive their needs

Hearing how English language learners describe their needs is always interesting. It provides course designers and teachers with essential information. Knowing what learners need and want makes it possible to target these areas and provide learners with appropriate, effective support and practice, addressing their needs at work and helping them to achieve their goals.

As part of our level testing process, we ask learners to write answers to questions such as these:

  • Do you use English in your work? If so, what do you do in English?
  • What areas in English would you like to improve on?

There are two reasons for asking these questions. The first, of course, is to have samples of the learners’ writing to confirm the appropriate level of study for them. The second reason is to find out how they perceive their needs. The answers to these questions are often detailed and revealing. Clearly, the learners know better than anyone what they need to do in English and what they would like from a course of study.

Needs analysis is nothing new. It is standard practice for any serious language teaching service provider. Asking is just the first step. The important next step is what you do with the information you receive. For the process to be worthwhile you need to be a good listener and to be able to respond to what learners tell you.

What do learners say?

The following is an example of a comment made by a language learner, concerning her use of English at work.

I need to improve my written expressing and fluency. I often have inquiries about heritage come from other countries, always in English. I need to be able to write better, not only to answer messages, but to be able to write short texts and articles in English. 

A solution to this learner’s needs would be a course that helps to structure her writing and provide her with the language she needs so that she can express what she wants to say in a clearly organised way and in an appropriate register. The student mentions different work-related text types, from messages and short texts to articles. It would be useful for her to see model texts of these different genres, to focus on and practise useful language, register and writing conventions. It would be even better if she could work closely with a tutor, to guide, encourage and support her.

Another learner described how he wanted to feel more comfortable making long speeches on different topics. This learner could benefit from a course that equips him with the ability to plan and structure a presentation, and then provides him with the right meta language to deliver it. Learners often comment on their need to feel more confident when using English. Opportunities to practise in a “safe” environment, for example, simulations with a tutor, can help here.

Matching courses to needs

The two cases above show that language learners have very different needs. Clearly, it is not easy to cater for the needs of all learners with just one course. A general English course can help a learner to improve their overall level of English, but can it help learners with specific work-related needs?

One approach is to develop shorter modules to target key work-related areas. In this way, a learner can go directly to their areas of need. In a work context, these could be areas such as writing, telephoning, negotiating, travelling for work, attending meetings, giving presentations, banking and finance, applying for a job and dealing with the public.

Common “Pain” points for English language learners

Learners’ needs or areas that cause them difficulty are sometimes referred to as “pain points”. The following are some of the more common pain points for English language learners in a work environment:

  1. Inadequate language skills for job requirements: learners may lack the language proficiency needed to effectively perform their job tasks, causing frustration and hindering job performance.
  2. Communication difficulties with colleagues and clients: a lack of language skills can lead to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, impacting the quality of work and professional relationships.
  3. Inability to participate fully in workplace discussions and meetings: learners may struggle to follow and contribute to discussions, causing them to miss important information and feel excluded from the workplace community.

To address these pains, course designers can employ a number of solutions. These could include:

  1. Task-based language teaching: designing tasks and activities that are directly related to the learners’ work tasks and goals, allowing them to practise and apply their language skills in real-life situations.
  2. Focused vocabulary and grammar instruction: targeting specific vocabulary and grammar areas that are essential for learners to perform their work tasks effectively.
  3. Incorporating authentic materials: using real-life materials and scenarios from the learners’ workplace to make the course content relevant and engaging.
  4. Providing opportunities for interaction: creating opportunities for learners to practise their language skills in a meaningful way.

How can we help?

Contact us if you would like to know more about how we can help you or your company or organisation address language learning problems in a work context.


Willis, J. and Willis, D. (2007). Doing task-based teaching. Oxford University Press.

Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge University Press.

Little, D. (2007). Language in the workplace. Multilingual Matters.

Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. Newbury House Publishers.

Murphey, T. (2003). Building communicative competence in a second language. TESOL Journal, 12(2), 21-29.

The future of online training courses for the corporate market

corporate training

Where to next with corporate training?

Before the pandemic some companies provided employees with the option of taking online courses but the majority of training was conducted in person. Indeed, according to a report by the Ken Blanchard Companies in 2021, prior to the pandemic, corporate training was as follows:

  • 70% in-person instructor-led training (physically present teacher)
  • 14% virtual instructor-led training (a teacher connecting with the class online)
  • 16% self-paced courses (structured online interactive content)

With the pandemic this changed unsurprisingly to:

  • 19% in-person instructor-led training
  • 57% virtual instructor-led training
  • 24% self-paced courses

Now that the pandemic seems to be behind us, how is this affecting corporate training? Are we reverting to how things were before the pandemic or is online training playing a much more significant role than it did in 2019? Well, the indications are that online training is playing a much more significant role in corporate training than it did prior to the pandemic.

According to the Ken Banchard Companies report, the prediction is for the following:

  • 34% in-person instructor-led training
  • 40% virtual instructor-led training
  • 25% self-paced courses

So, if this is right, traditional face-to-face training is just going to be half of what it was prior to the pandemic. And there will be more virtual instructor-led training than in-person training. However, what is even more interesting is the importance of self-paced courses. This refers to online learning platforms which include structured interactive digital content which allow course participants to work through the course material at their own pace.

Why has the balance changed? There are many different reasons:

  1. More and more people are either working 100% from home or part-time from home, part-time from the office. Online training options particularly self-paced courses provide the flexibility to cater for this type of working environment much better than in-person instructor-led training.
  2. Due to the pandemic, more people have now experienced online training options and realised that it can be an effective way to train people. As such it has broken down psychological barriers that existed with certain people who hadn’t experienced online courses before.
  3. Self-paced courses and virtual instructor-led training can be more effective, more efficient and cheaper than conventional training options.
  4. People are more digitally confident than they were prior to the pandemic. The vast majority of people have experienced Zoom, Teams or other web-conferencing tools. Following an online course is no longer an intimidating prospect for most people.
  5. People now expect more flexible training options. They know that flexibility is possible and want to continue to enjoy these options.

The conclusion seems to be that corporate markets will require more and more flexible options to cater for a fast-changing work environment. Self-paced courses combined with virtual instructor-led training caters well for this environment.

Net Languages has over 20 years’ experience of doing just that.

Find out more about what Net Languages can do for your corporate training needs.

And contact us here to schedule a call or request information.

Or, if you are a language school or training organisation, contact us to find out how you can use our materials with your clients.

Measuring learning: KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

If you work in corporate training, you have probably heard the term KPIs. But what are KPIs and what are they used for?

KPIs stand for Key Performance Indicators. They are the critical indicators of progress toward an intended result. They are often used by training managers to help them measure learning and the effectiveness of training programmes. Simply put, they are the reason for running a course and the means to evaluate if the training has had a positive effect on achieving the objective.

Here is a visual representation of how KPIs can be created:

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators

A practical example of Key Performance Indicators

Let’s imagine that certain people in a company need to attend international conferences and deliver presentations in English. However, feedback on these presentations is not good. It has been noted that the presentations are not easy to follow because of the level of English of the presenters. The company decides to commission the services of a language training specialist to change this. The training has three clear objectives: to help the presenters deliver talks in a clear, register-appropriate and engaging way in English.

In order to evaluate learning and improved performance, the participants in the course need to be assessed both prior to training and after training using the same criteria. In our example, the course participants would need to be evaluated on clarity, register and audience engagement in the delivery of their presentations in English.

It is important for language teaching organisations to find out whether corporate clients will use KPIs to measure the effectiveness of a course and to set realistic expectations. The teachers delivering the course also need to be involved in the dialogue about the KPIs to ensure that the training is focused on making improvements in these specific areas.

The difference between KPIs and Learning Analytics

Key Performance Indicators tend to be different from Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics is the more granular data provided by language teaching organisations to prove that learning has taken place. Typically, the data includes results of tests or exam results and can be broken down into specific language areas e.g. Vocabulary, Grammar, Functional Language, reading skills, listening skills, writing skills and speaking skills.

Learning analytics is normally presented to training managers by the language teaching organisations. Key Performance Indicators, on the other hand, are normally analysed by the training manager and are closely linked to the specific training needs and goals.

Communication is key

The important thing is that there is an open and frank dialogue between the language training organisation and the training manager or learning and development manager of the company about the goals of the training. For training to be successful we need to ensure that realistic objectives for the language training are both set and met.

Do you need help to achieve your language learning objectives?

If you represent a company or institution and are interested in finding out how we can help you achieve your language learning objectives using KPIs, fill in this form and we’ll set up a call.