Your company has just made a big decision: You want to hire a language training company to provide training for your global workforce. First, pat yourself on the back, because this is a very smart move. Helping your employees improve their language proficiency levels will pay off in improved morale, retention and communication — all things that affect your bottom line.
questions to ask when hiring a language training company
But to get those benefits, the language training company you select has to actually be effective for your employees. So how can you evaluate that ahead of time? We’ve got a list of questions to ask any company you’re considering.

1. How much will students be speaking in class?

The answer you’re looking for:
50% if they are beginners, quickly progressing to 70% or more.

As the founder and CEO of a company that helps people learn languages, I’ve taken plenty of language lessons myself: Spanish, French, Japanese … I love languages!

Over 20 years, I’ve learned foreign languages from at least 40 instructors. Through that experience, I’m now able to quickly identify which teachers will truly help me obtain language fluency: They are the ones who encourage me to speak the language.

Imagine trying to become a professional pianist just by watching your teacher play the piano. It won’t happen! Language training works the same way. From the first lesson, students should be encouraged to speak and respond in the language they are studying.

2. How will you improve my employees’ language fluency?

The answer you’re looking for:
Our instructors will give you fluency by speaking with you, telling stories, reading stories, watching shows/movies/videos, and talking, talking, talking with you. Also, we will role play about relevant meetings and work events to practice for the exact experiences that the employee will need to be prepared for.

The answer you’re NOT looking for:
Extensive vocabulary lists and grammar drills.

Let me explain more. True fluency is the ability to express yourself easily and accurately. It’s the ability to travel, do business, make friends, talk to clients and succeed in a foreign language.

A perfect score on a grammar test does not equal fluency. Most professionals ace their proficiency exams in reading and writing, but that DOES NOT translate into actually being able to understand spoken language or to speak well.

Want to know the No. 1 story I hear during our initial client interviews?

I took X language in high school for four years, and I can’t say a thing!

If you didn’t learn your chosen language through vocabulary lists and grammar drills 20 years ago, you’re surely not going to learn it that way now!

3. How much experience do your instructors have teaching professional adults?

The answer you’re looking for:
2+ years experience specifically with professional adults.

A university professor doesn’t necessarily know how to encourage fluency and get your employees talking. Nor does someone who prepped people for citizenship exams or taught a dual language classroom for fifth-graders. It takes very specific skills to give language fluency to a professional adult, and you want to make sure the instructors have these skills and this specific experience.

Follow up with questions about instructors’ specific backgrounds. Hiring language training company instructors with the right experience is the key to getting real results.

4. How long will it take our language learners to obtain fluency?

The answer you’re NOT looking for:
Less than 100 hours if they’re a complete beginner.

True fluency takes time! Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking differently. This is especially true if your employees will be working with a language instructor for only one to two hours each week. (If you’re working with an instructor for 20 hours a week, then yes, you can expect results much more quickly.)

The rule of thumb is 100 hours per level of improvement. If you’re a complete beginner, and wanting to learn a romance language (and your first language is English) then it’s 300 hours of one-on-one coaching for basic conversations and 600 hours for leading a meeting. And vice versa if your native language is a romance language and you want to improve your English. It’s 1200 hours to lead a meeting for languages like Japanese, Korean or Mandarin.

First, define the goals of your company. Are these lessons a perk for employees? Then a 100-hour group course might be a great experience. If it’s someone who absolutely must improve to be more productive, then one-on-one lessons for 100-200 hours will be just the trick to really get him or her to a whole new level of communication.

5. Are teachers in your language training company certified foreign language instructors? (Applicable for English language instructors only)

The answer you’re looking for:
Yes. (But this isn’t a deal-breaker.)

If you’re hiring English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL or ESL) instructors, then ask if they are TEFL certified. This certification means an instructor has taken a course to specifically learn how to teach English to non-native speakers. Simply knowing English is typically not enough to be an effective English language instructor.

This certification is a plus, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Some instructors have years of experience and no certification. Experience makes up for a lack certification, because experience teaching adults in a professional setting is worth gold.

We Can Help

Hiring a language training company is a big decision, and there’s a lot riding on getting it right. If you have any questions we haven’t covered here, please get in touch for a free consultation.