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    What Are The Realistic Goals of Language Learning for Businesses?

    If you want your business to break through the language barrier, just how proficient do your employees really need to be? How long will this take? What is the most practical training resource for rapid language acquisition? Can it be implemented on a large scale, have low to moderate costs, and produce tangible returns to the company?

    First, let’s be clear about language skills: foreign language fluency is not the objective. True near-native fluency takes many, many years of practice, usually while living in a foreign country. For most of your employees, it is “functional proficiency” that gives you the results you’re looking for and moves you past the language barrier. This is not merely what some call “survival” or “traveler’s” proficiency”. By functional proficiency we mean the ability to engage in common, everyday conversations or handle basic interactions that require only a modest vocabulary. (And remember, it doesn’t take much vocabulary: many studies have shown that the most common 1,000 words in any language make up about 85 percent of all conversations).

    Traditionally, most businesses with a need for greater language proficiency have tended to rely on classroom-based training. Yet, for a number of reasons (i.e. location, scheduling, and numbers) this approach is often seen as prohibitively expensive or impractical. And, of course, many of us who have ever tried to learn a second language in this way have never reached a satisfactory level of language proficiency. Think back to your high school French or German class: we tend to learn a little vocabulary and some grammar, but we just can’t seem to advance to a point where we can confidentially participate in even a simple conversation. Clearly, new language training methods are needed and we think has the solution your business is looking for.

    You also may be at least somewhat familiar with a few of the more popular language training systems such as Rosetta Stone and Simon & Shuster’s Pimsleur. You may have tried them and found them moderately effective, or you may have found them just minimally useful. The fact is that learning a second language is very difficult, and most learning methods, whether classroom-based or computerized, just don’t work very well. We think there is a better way.

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