Con.text

It’s How You Say It

 

 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

-Nelson Mandela

International professionals have three unique courses to help them improve their English language skills in their workplace this Fall. With a focus on context of English use, these courses offer a lot of feedback and first-hand training to ensure that emerging English speakers are understood.

“Storytelling is our most natural and fundamental communication tool,” says Jennifer Orr, Program Coordinator for Speech Arts and Drama, MRU Conservatory. The addition of speech coaches offers unique value to the Enhanced Speaking Skills for Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) course.

She explains, “Our voices are most effective when our own thoughts and emotions are connected. English as an additional language (EAL) speakers often lose vocal range, confidence and expression as they work to speak in English. The language is not fully their own, so their voice isn’t either.  We hope to change that.”

Kathy Dawson, Program Administrator in Teacher Education for MRU’s Languages Institute, agrees that in the case of IEPs, it’s not just what they say, it’s how it’s said in the context of their work environment. “Language training that focuses on this enhanced quality helps improve overall confidence.”

Pathways for Internationally Educated Professionals (PIEP) is a blended format course (classroom and online components) that also has a dramatic flair. With a weekly theme, participants role-play workplace scenarios with actors, then receive feedback from the language instructor, a business expert, their peers and the actors themselves. Kathy says they’re not focused on grammar per se, but instead looking for, “that which interferes with understanding rather than trying to be perfect.” She adds that the feedback is on a more complex level, “It’s not the standard ‘You used the wrong verb tense’, but more along the lines of ‘You mixed up she and he and your verb tenses were inconsistent so I couldn’t follow the story’.”

The rule of thumb for all enrolled in these courses is, “My language is only as good as it fits the context in which I’m trying to communicate.” Each workplace sets its own professional tone and has its own professional lingo that must be understood to facilitate effective communication.

In its final offering this academic year is the Communication Studies for Health Professionals (CSHP) course, which has targeted language integration techniques in the medical and healthcare fields. Kathy nods, “It’s been a great way to help healthcare professionals understand hospital culture so they can transition to the Canadian context more easily.” This was a course that also offered participants the opportunity to role-play with actors in medical examination situations. When CSHP is no longer offered, healthcare practitioners will be able to enrol in PIEP and gain workplace communication skills alongside fellow professionals in other sectors.

From a vocal perspective, the classes will be experiential and all students will be fully engaged in the process of storytelling,” Jennifer Orr attests. From vocal tone, range and expression to vocal strength and confidence, storytelling can be empowering. “When we tell stories we access our memories and experiences – and are free from the constraints of “formal” communication.” Orr states. “Storytelling brings the speaker into the communication moment and the audience to the speaker.” This, by extension, enables IEPs to assimilate and communicate with their chosen professions’ corporate culture.

That, as Orr put it is, “Powerful stuff.”

  • by JLove

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