In a recent episode of the “Language is Your Superpower” podcast, guest Casie Arellano shares insights about supporting the attainment of language proficiency for a diverse workforce and provides tips for coaching adults learning English. When teaching a new language and particularly when coaching ESOL learners to enhance their language competencies within diverse workplaces, you might want to apply these three tips that will help not only the individual but their families and communities:
1. Speak the target language as much as possible
In this case, the target language is the language that is being learned, not necessarily the dominant language within the workforce or workplace. Therefore, if Spanish is the native language, then English is the target language that is being learned. Podcast host Lisa March shares, “LTI does quite a bit of education in K-12 and one of the things we always tell teachers is always speak in the target language. Even if it is American students learning Spanish, that you only speak in Spanish, and it should be 95% of the time.” This not only applies to K-12 but also to adult learners that are seeking to command a second language for employment purposes.
At Brevard Adult and Community Education, Casie Arellano shared that most of their teachers with Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MA TESOL) bring complementary language skills, but primarily command English. They found that when adult learners are forced to speak English, they are challenged to “muscle through” the language barriers and seek ways to acquire the vocabulary and comprehension to ensure that they are understood. So, the saying, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” truly applies when acquiring new language skills in a target language.
2. Train for language competency in high-demand jobs
Language used in conversation differs from vocabulary used in occupational settings. Therefore, it’s not only important to acquire the language skills to communicate in a second or third language, but it is also critical to learn the terminology needed to navigate a particular industry or professional role. There is a demand by employers for qualified talent to recruit and the programs at Brevard Adult and Community Education work to meet that need.
As reported in “Making Language Our Business: Addressing Foreign language Demand Among Employers”, 85% of U.S. employers stated that they not only sought after but relied on Spanish-speaking employees, and 42% were experiencing a shortage of people who commanded Spanish. Therefore, training for language competency in high demand jobs is an effective strategy to address the talent needs of employers. In the podcast, Casie shared that “having two languages in our area [Brevard County, Florida] is a plus. We focus on careers that have a high interaction with bilingual populations, such as call centers.” Therefore, coaching ESOL learners to navigate these employment opportunities with the help of career counselors is an effective workforce development strategy. Learners are supported through an online platform called Employ Florida, where they search for job postings, submit resumes, and have access to interviews for these jobs. One-on-one support is provided by career counselors and coaches to help as many adult language learners as possible secure employment in high demand jobs while completing the ESOL program.
3. Be creative in engaging ESOL learners
Go where the ESOL learner can be found. After Hurricane María there was an influx of Spanish speaking students from Puerto Rico that enrolled in Florida schools. To address the sudden need for language support, Brevard Adult and Community Education established a program in the schools for the parents to learn Spanish while their children were in class. By meeting parents in spaces where they would inevitably go in their daily lives, the program offered a convenient way for them to access English classes. It also gave Spanish-speaking parents an opportunity to learn about career options in Florida and learn about potential employers as well as helped bridge the communication gap between parents and school administration. Brevard Adult and Community Education’s creative approach in engaging with adult ESOL learners, had a meaningful impact to not only students of all ages, but their families and the community.
Coaching for language competency involves understanding the needs of the ESOL learner considering their context and culture, where they are currently and where they want to go as far as life goals. Taking time to explore and assess their language everyday needs offers an opportunity to develop effective engagement strategies, create space where they can acquire training for high-demand jobs, and ultimately, become proficient in the target language.
Tune into the podcast with Casie Arellano here.