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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.

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