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Feb 22, 2010

A Change in perception
Since the crisis started- and I cannot for the life of me set a specific date on when it started but rather just give a rough time period when people started fearing it- I hear people talking about doing everything in their hands to keep their jobs; jobs they were not too comfortable or happy about to begin with.

This got me thinking- why is it that regardless of the situation we are in, we tend to complain?Why do we stay in a situation even if it goes against our principles? Well, I found a few answers to these questions but I'll focus on the most prevailing reason I can think of.

Sometimes, we get distracted with the day to day and forget to stop, think and actively decide what we want and how we can get it. By not deciding, we just let our lives pass in front of us thus, becoming mere spectators of our own lives!
Often times you can hear someone talk about the long hours they work, how their work is not valued enough, how little they make for such a big effort, how their family members suffer their absence and worries and on and on.

In our society it seems like the longer you spend at work, the better you are at what you do.The less time you spend with your family because of work, the more you love them because you are sacrifying yourself for their sake. The less time you have for yourself, the more generous you are... and the list is endless. How did we arrive at these conclusions? The answer is simple. We have- for whatever reason- adopted a set of values that are misleading us.

Let me explain. Our values determine our priorities in life and our priorities determine the actions we take. By values I mean the driving force behind the decisions we make. Look at what happens when we shift our focus:

If our values are:

  • Feeling worthy of others
  • Being number 1
  • Being right
  • Being in the right circle of people
  • Making "a lot of money"
  • Achievment
  • Being loved and loving by pleasing others
  • Having the greatest amount of friends
  • Learning things
then we will probably struggle in some areas of our lives because we will always be trying to adapt to others' demands. If we are working long hours to prove ourselves to our bosses and be considered worthy, right, competitive, etc, we are at risk of neglecting our families and friends. When we realise we are doing this, we may then pay close attention to what they need, only to neglect our own personal needs.

By changing our values or the driving force behind what we do, we will soon see how everything gracefully falls into place allowing us to enjoy our work, our family and our "playtime".

I changed my list of values to look something like this:

  • Feeling good and happy
  • Growing
  • Learning new things and meeting new challenges
  • Loving the people around me
  • Making money to pay for my list of wants
  • Having fun

As soon as my values (or driving force behind what I do) changed, I was then able to decide what would help me achieve them in a more efficient way and take the necessary steps.
Believe me when I say that as soon as you decide how your list will "play" your perception and life start to change. Incredibly enough, instead of losing your job, friends and family, this new shift will actually strengthen the bond and empower you to do what you want!

Feb 16, 2010

I never usually have any New Year’s resolutions. Mainly because I don’t believe in waiting until the last day of the week or year, for that matter, to commit oneself to changing physically, mentally and spiritually when in reality one has spent all year figuring out ways of indulging in “self sabotage”.

But hey, we all change and I do too. So, this year, the omnipresent feeling of doom, gloom and ruin that “the crisis” has given most people in this country, has actually served a purpose as, for the first time ever, the thought of doing something totally different started to attract me. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I do have some New Year’s resolutions and as I don’t usually go for the humble¹ side of things my list now includes improvements in all areas of my life and business.

I will not bore you with all the sordid details on what or how I plan to change but what I will do is show you how some of these changes may affect you, our student! You heard me right. The changes in me, will affect you! And this is what the Chaos Theory states- when a butterfly flaps² its wings in Brazil the effect will be noticeable in some way or another in China- or Spain for that matter.

To become a butterfly though, one must first be a caterpillar. Well, Emerson has been a caterpillar for a long time. And, during that time, it has invested all its energy in listening to its clients and their needs- to you. This has definitely provided us a solid ground on which to develop the NEW Emerson spirit and services.

The time has now come, and at Emerson we are proud to present the new services we are sure will lend you, our students and clients, a competitive edge³.

Business and Leadership Skills Seminars

Emailing skills & netiquette
Killer presentation skills
Effective negotiation techniques
Time management

On this blog, we will be including the previews for all of these seminars. You can already look at the one for presentation skills- it is an example of a presentation style called Pecha Kucha. It summarises a four hour seminar into a little over 6 minutes!

All of the seminars are in English, aimed at students whose levels are Intermediate or higher and for people who seek to challenge and exceed themselves.

So, if you still haven’t made your New Year’s resolution for improving your English, start now with Emerson. It’s never too late!

¹ humble: modest
² to flap: movement needed to fly
³ edge: in this case it means advantage- look at dictionary for more definitions.

Mar 9, 2009

APRENDER INGLES- Todos somos responsables

Creo que la crisis está siendo un sistema excelente para hacer una limpieza en todos los sectores. Como ya han comentado muchos- el sector de la enseñanza de inglés deja mucho que desear y creo que todos- tanto centros de idiomas, alumnos y empresas podemos aprender de esta experiencia. Yo no estoy del todo de acuerdo en que las academias sean las únicas responsables de la falta de profesionalidad en el sector y el lento aprendizaje de los alumnos.HAy una combinación de factores que han influido a que sean pocos los Españoles que verdaderamente tengan un nivel de inglés sólido. Hasta ahora ha habido una fortísima demanda por aprender inglés pero también una falta de conocimiento tanto por parte de los alumnos como de las empresas que contratan las clases de lo que esto implica. Aprender un idioma requiere un grandísimo esfuerzo tanto económico como de tiempo. Hay que invertir miles de horas para estudiar, repasar y aprovechar cualquier oportunidad para utilizar el idioma que se quiere aprender. No solo es cuestión de asistir a clase dos horas por semana- llegar tarde a las mismas y no hacer ningún tipo de esfuerzo fuera de clase. ¿Cuantos de nosotros podemos realmente decir que hemos asistido a clase un mínimo del 80%, hemos estudiado y hemos aprovechado para ver programas en VO, hablar con nativos y leer en inglés? Cuantas de las empresas que contratan clases de inglés se han dejado aconsejar por profesionales y han seguido las pautas establecidas? En mi experiencia- de más de 18años- muchas de las empresas que invierten dinero en formación- no saben que existen programas de TEFL que garantizan que los profesores que contraten tengan un mínimo de formación. A veces, se preocupan mas por que sus empleados estén contentos y puedan asistir al grupo en donde están sus compañeros que en que asistan al nivel en donde sacarán mayor rendimiento. Desde mi punto de vista las academias de idiomas son responsables de contratar a personal cualificado- cada vez hay mas escuelas que ofrecen formación para profesores así que contratar a nativos cualificados ya no es un gran problema. Los responsables de contratar al profesorado- en mi opinión-deberían de ser nativos o por lo menos bilingües para garantizar que la contratación ofrezca ciertas garantías de calidad. Los alumnos deben responsabilizarse por su aprendizaje- Asistir a clase, hacer deberes y aprovechar cualquier ocasión para practicar.Las empresas se beneficiarían muchísimo más de trabajar en equipo con las escuelas de idiomas y dejarse asesorar por las mismas. Invertir dinero no es suficiente. Formar a los empleados supone una implicación mucho mas profunda. Creo que si las tres partes de la ecuación se implican y responsabilizan de verdad, el aprendizaje de cualquier idioma es mucho más rápido y eficaz. Aprender un idioma no garantiza el éxito internacional.Creo que a parte de aprender un idioma y para moverse como pez en el agua, hay que ser bi cultural- Quizás la crisis nos ayude a mejorar.......

Feb 26, 2009

Let There Be A Future

It’s incredible how the crisis seems to affect the logic behind everything we do. Having money yet not spending it on our health just because we are afraid we won’t be able to make it into the next century will certainly not help us get there!
In countries with emerging economies there seems to be a Catch 22(1) that is unavoidable. If you can’t feed your family, get the kids (2) to work. Get the kids to work (3) at the expense of (4) their education and find that you can then feed your family but you are still in the hole, unable to get out.
In our experience in the teaching field, we feel that a lot of companies are being pushed into taking decisions that, although, may be good in the short term, will not allow them to gain a competitive edge (5) in the long term.
It seems that although many companies are struggling to pull through (6) instead of planning on how to survive in a more rational way; cutting on training costs always seems to be the answer.
Many companies have spent thousands, even millions of Euros training their people, employing language consultants to help their best assets- their employees, to learn English. They have eagerly made this investment during times of economic prosperity and without questioning the pace at which the process of learning takes place. Little by little, they have been able to see that their employees are now more able to communicate in English and therefore, in many occasions cut deals (7) that would not have been made without the skill of communicating effectively.
It seems however, that when there is an economic crisis, quality is no longer important and effective communication becomes a secondary tool to selling. According to what I read in the newspapers, selling and making a profit are most companies’ sole purpose of being. Therefore, why would a company decide to reduce costs by stopping all training and hamper (8) the skills that would guarantee them a profit in times of recession or at any other time for that matter?
Unfortunately, and most would agree, learning is a slow process that needs effort and commitment by both the student and the company paying for said training. Stopping the process means the student will quickly lose fluency and vocabulary, leading to a feeling of frustration and aversion to the language that will remain even when the student resumes his/her learning. How long does it usually take a person in Spain to reach an Upper Intermediate level and truly feel comfortable and self confident communicating in English? A life time perhaps? Why is it different in northern European countries? Is there anything we can learn from them regarding how to set our priorities straight and stick (9) to them?
I believe short term goals usually do not get anyone very far. Perhaps, included in our goal to teach people English, we (all educational organizations and students alike (10)) should start by helping employers see the benefits of continuity.
I, myself would not like to see my future as being a toothless and weakened entity supported by my uneducated, overworked children because I was unable to plan during a time of crisis!

1. A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.
2. Slang: children.
3. Get somebody to work: to cause or bring to a state or condition (i.e. work)
4. At the loss of.
5. Favorable condition.
6. Striving to succeed.
7. To negotiate an agreement.
8. To prevent the free movement, action, or progress of.
9. To persist or persevere.
10. In like manner.

Feb 25, 2009

The Perpetuation of Mispronouncing English

I was watching the television the other day and during the commercials listened to the way the different products (English names) were pronounced (badly in general) and realized that part of the problem that most students have with pronunciation and understanding spoken English is perpetuated by the commercials and announcers mispronouncing brand names, titles, people’s names, etc. Can somebody explain the logic behind the pronunciation of Colgate (col-gueit) as col-ga-te but Nike (nai-qui) as naik????? Or how about the recent Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” has somehow become “Slamdo Miyonayr”! I could go on and on. Why don’t the announcers stop to at least try and listen to the correct pronunciation? As to commercials, one would think that the companies would be more vigilant as to the pronunciation of their product, right?
My beef is that this slipshod way of presenting things is perpetuating the mispronunciation of English that is endemic to the Spanish student. As it is, everything is dubbed (and for the most part badly translated) in this country. A student must make a very concerted effort to hear and speak in English. In schools for example and for the most part, the “English teacher” does not speak English. Students spend their time translating and studying grammar.
So where am I going with this? For the serious student of English, USE YOUR DICTIONARY!!! I mean the English/English dictionary. You can find the CORRECT pronunciation, definitions and the various uses of a word- which in English can be quite extensive- with examples of the uses, etc.; in other words, the whole enchilada! If you have a really good dictionary it will also give the origin and how the word has transformed over time.
The point being to learn English you MUST use the dictionary – whether it is the one on your table or on the internet. Take the time to say the word out loud paying close attention to the pronunciation given until it feels comfortable. (Remember to put the accent on the correct part of the word!) Make it a habit! I assure you that very soon you will see an improvement in both your speaking and LISTENING skills.

Feb 11, 2009

Telephone Classes? Are you serious?

Actually, very serious! Phone classes are an excellent way to improve listening and speaking skills and can be taken on a stand-alone basis or in conjunction with presential classes. They also have the advantage of not having to physically go to a place but can be taken anywhere there is a landline. At Emerson, the phone classes are very structured and follow guidelines so that the student doesn’t just “babble”. But the biggest asset that we have is the teachers themselves. It takes a very special type of person to be a phone-teacher: informed, organized, patient, internet savvy, good diction and enunciation, loves to talk on the phone as well as be a good listener, are just a few of the characteristics necessary and we have been fortunate to have found teachers who not only possess these characteristics but embody the essence of being true ESL teachers. While at first glance it may look like an easy job, it is not – it is a lot of hard work and can be more trying than face-to-face classes. Because the student cannot see who is on the other end of the phone, the teacher needs to work twice as hard at establishing a rapport with the student. This can be especially difficult when a student is shy or insecure, but once the teacher has managed to help the student overcome his/her fears the learning curve suddenly becomes a steep incline! So, “telephone classes, are you serious?” Yes, very!!!