Is Being Able to Speak English Enough? Why Employers are Giving Preference to Employees with Excellent English Writing Skills

Introduction

Whether you are a native English speaker or speak English as a second language, gone are the days where just being able to speak English is enough. Employers are now looking for, and giving preference to, employees with excellent English writing skills.

The reality of the business world today is that most jobs require you to work globally, not just nationally. You may live in Chile but your client base may be from the United States, Thailand, France or Russia. To be able to communicate efficiently with such a diverse client base, it is only logical there be a common business language, and English it that common language.

Furthermore, in today’s technological society, clients expect any verbal communication to be followed up with a written summary or proposal in English.

Great English is a Necessity for Foreign Employers

As the owner of English Action Institute in Santiago de Chile, I can tell you that just speaking English is not enough. In the last nine years, our business has tripled because of this. Each day we work with more than 100 students whose companies hired us to teach them the English demanded to become productive employees who can help move their company to the next level.

If You Have Excellent English Skills, You are in Demand

Internationally, companies are spending millions to teach their employees the intricacies of speaking English. Being as fluent in English as possible allows them to adapt the language to the needs of the business at hand, and this is what multi-national corporations need.

Here in Chile it can cost companies hundreds to thousands of dollars a month to teach English to just one student. If multiplied by twelve months; then multiplied by 10, 20, 30, 40 or more employees yearly, it is understandable why employees who do not have a good command of English do not get hired. They are not good investments.

Master English – Get Hired Over the Skilled Candidate

Nearly every week I hear from employers who are hiring people who have strong English speaking, listening, and writing skills over those who do not.  This is regardless of whether the non-English fluent candidate is specifically trained for the position.

The business world expects to train employees as things change and new strategies are created. It does not expect to have to train employees in what are now basic skills for hiring: speaking and writing clearly in English. Teaching someone a second language is costly and time consuming. With no prior knowledge base, acquiring the language is not like learning a new technology skill to add to what you can already do. It follows that it is just more cost effective to hire capable English speaker and writer than it is to hire someone, even if he or she has a four-year degree or even a Master’s degree.

Why Good Language Skills Matter Even for Native English Employees

A friend of mine from the US recently shared a story with me about a program coordinator in an urban school district. She received an invitation from IBM to come and talk about the skills employees needed to be hired and to be successful. Three recent hires also attended the meeting. Each was a college graduate from the top of his or her class, and each was in training to learn better communication skills, even though English was their first language. Though college graduates, well versed in their discipline, not one had the strong, Basic English skills needed to be productive within the company. Frustrated, the IBM manager shared that the biggest part of his budget was for retraining new hires so they could communicate with the client base.

According to Forbes, English will maintain and grow its dominance becoming a basic skill required for application to any job. When working with such a diverse, global client base, speaking a common language assures the information is communicated clearly and efficiently.

Summary

English is the official language of the global business world, and employers want to hire people who have a solid skill base in it. If your English skills are weak, performance suffers, communication becomes unreliable, and efficiency wanes. So, to get a job and keep the job, you need to learn English and learn it well.

About the Author: Donald Carter has been the co-director and co-owner of English Action Institute in Santiago, Chile since 2009. With more than 30 teachers English Action is a leader in teaching Business English in Chile.

Recommendations for English Language Learners (ELLs) and how Merit Software can help

College students in a computer labAlmost five million students in the United States public education system are English Language Learners (ELLs).

The percentage of ELLs graduating high school within four years trails other subgroups such as pupils from low-income families and students with disabilities.

Reaching all of America’s students includes meeting the needs of diverse learners that possess a wide variance in skills, backgrounds, cultures and family supports.

Supporting ELLs, and ultimately all students, involves multiple strategies, professional learning and environmental support. It also means providing next-gen and technological tools that can support language acquisition.

A new report from Getting Smart presents opinions from experienced ELL educators and thought leaders across the U.S. about existing tools and gaps in the field.

Merit Software’s programs for ELLs have a strong track record of effectiveness. Merit programs cover a variety of skills and a broad range of levels. Merit offers a clean, straightforward interface and as well as content that is suitable for older students.

Learn more about Merit’s English language learning products at www.meritsoftware.com

Education for the “New Majority” And how the American education system needs to readjust its priorities

The American education system needs to readjust its priorities and serve what Bill Gates, in a recent speech, called the “new majority.”

Who are the “new majority”? Students who

  • graduate from high school, but are unprepared for college
  • attend college, but do not receive a credential in six years
  • start their higher education after the age of 25 and who are the first in their family to go to college

Not only are more alternative education providers needed, says Gates, but “we also need to focus within the [education] system, and understand why technology doesn’t scale.”

Solutions, according to Gates, will emerge from a 3-pronged approach — effective personalized learning, building an evidence base of what works, and adoption of proven educational technologies.

Merit has been working on these issues for several years. Based on insights gleaned from working with K12 and college students, as well as instructors who use our software, we have learned of ways to improve how our content is created and used. As a result, we are about to launch two initiatives to help educate the “new majority.”

The first initiative is News Punch.  News Punch is based on Paragraph Punch, a popular and widely used tool for teaching writing skills.

News Punch takes links to fun and fascinating news stories and provides guided writing prompts about them.  The program helps students find evidence in texts and write about it.

New news-based writing prompts are to be released almost every week. Suggestions are welcome from users. Custom prompts can be created for any informational text or media.

Research from the Carnegie Foundation shows that writing about reading improves student reading comprehension.

News Punch is scalable: its built-in supports help students of a wide range of abilities participate in English Language Arts writing exercises.

News Punch activities can be used by both K12 and remedial college students, as well as non-U.S. learners who want to improve their English. Although further evidence is necessary, we believe work in News Punch can probably be used as a measure of college readiness.

There is a free, full-working example (no login required) on the News Punch web site.

The second initiative is syncing Merit Online programs with social media tools such as Facebook and Google Plus. This step has many potential benefits. For example, enhanced collaboration and discussion opportunities based on students’ writing.

Feel free to share comments on these issues below.

Are Schools Acting Smart About Literacy? How a new idea from Merit can help

News-Punch-Screenshot

According to a new report from the Brown Center on Educational Policy, states that have adopted Common Core standards are likely to see a de-emphasis in use of fiction materials and increased use of nonfiction materials in language classes. This is in accordance with the Common Core recommendations. NAEP test scores have been lower, and some educators have charged that this is a consequence of these changes and other Common Core recommendations.

Yet, states that have not implemented the Common Core standards have seen a similar depression of scores. The Brown Center report concludes that whatever is depressing NAEP scores is more general than the application of one set of standards or another.

The team at Merit talks to educators every day. It is clear that educators need to be smarter about how, and when, they choose to use interventions to improve test scores.

We have observed that schools rely too heavily on leveled reading programs to help students catch up to grade level. Despite wide use, there is little evidence to show leveled reading programs close large, long-term gaps in reading comprehension beyond those in early primary grades.

The increased use of nonfiction has coincided with advances in text simplification tools, Text simplification tools have made it easier than ever to create, and use, leveled texts in language classes.

It is understandable that a school would want to use adaptive reading technologies for struggling students as an intervention, or for short-term test prep. However, leveled texts should not be the driver of classroom instruction.  Leveled texts strip a lot of the meaning out of the content. Students would be better served if there were another way that they could participate in classroom activities to promote comprehension.

This is why we created News Punch — a program that builds comprehension through writing about texts. The program combines links to fun and fascinating news stories with step-by-step, guided writing prompts. New topics are created and deployed at least 40 times a year.

Recent News Punch topics have covered the Flint water crisis, the race to build reusable rockets, and a public wall in Seattle covered in chewing gum. Input on which articles to use is welcomed from educators and students. The Merit team can create custom activities for schools for a modest fee.

Research has shown that when students write about reading, as well as read challenging texts, there is a strong correlation to improved reading comprehension.

While we are just launching News Punch now, the program has been in test mode for several months.  Many educators have already used it with students and they love it. Please contact us if you would like to try News Punch now too.

Improving Adult Literacy with Technology

According to the Barbara Bush Foundation, which has established a competition challenging teams of developers, educators, engineers, and innovators to create mobile literacy learning applications for adult learners, 36 million U.S. adults lack basic English literacy.

Low-literate adults have difficulty with such things as reading over-the-counter medicine labels, completing a job application, opening a bank account, and more. Studies show that improving adult literacy could save the country an estimated $230 billion in extra healthcare costs. Even a one percent rise in literacy skill scores can increase labor productivity by as much as 2.5 percent, boosting output by as much as $225 billion.

Existing programs provided by nonprofits and public agencies offer only direct, in-person services, often in a classrooms or small groups. These programs cannot meet the needs of the millions of low-literate adults in the United States.

Merit Software’s programs in adult literacy have a strong track record of effectiveness.

Merit programs cover a variety of skills and a broad range of levels. Plus, Merit offers a clean, straightforward interface and as well as content that is suitable for older students.

Learn more about Merit’s adult literacy software at www.meritsoftware.com.

Are Chinese Students Faltering in American Universities?

There have been a number of recent news articles about the changing relationship between Chinese students and American universities. In the past, such students tended to be well-qualified graduate students sponsored by the Chinese government and living on tight budgets.

More recently, the resources of a burgeoning Chinese middle class have given parents the ability to send their children abroad to study. Unlike their predecessors, many of the students are less prepared and are entering undergraduate rather than graduate programs. At this time, they seem to care more about the reputation of the school than finding programs that fit their capabilities. As a consequence, according to an estimate by a U.S. education company, some 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from American universities last year alone—owing primarily to poor grades and cheating.

This issue is not just confined to Chinese students. Some Montana Tech students from Saudi Arabia who were caught in a cheating scandal back in 2012 were reportedly offered flights home to avoid arrest according to a local report.

This is where Merit Software comes in. By using Merit programs, the English language skills of Chinese and other international students can be improved to make study abroad more accessible and beneficial. Several Chinese students in U.S. schools have benefited from the Merit’s Grammar Fitness and Confused Word Fix-Up products.

Read more:

New Enhancements to Punch Writing Programs

Merit is pleased to announce new enhancements to its Punch process writing programs including Paragraph Punch, Open Punch, and Essay Punch.

Students who have completed a written work may now edit it by logging into their Online Portfolios.

The Post Published Editing tool allows users to see the current state of their work, review past versions, and print their newly updated paragraphs. The paragraph as it was initially published will be preserved both on the Published Paragraph screen, and on the Post Published Edits screen under the title “Original.”

New-Punch-Tools

The improved editing functionality has been seamlessly integrated into the software and is backwardly compatible with all previously completed written works.

Learn more about the Punch writing programs:

Starter Paragraph Punch

Paragraph Punch

Open Punch

Essay Punch

 

It’s Time to Level the Playing Field So More Students Can Compete Academically

FriendsWhile students respond positively to teachers who set high academic expectations, teachers often fail to set these expectations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A report from the Center for American Progress entitled “The Power of the Pygmalion Effect” indicates that teacher expectations strongly predict college completion.

Data suggest that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ instructional skills and to dispel social stereotypes.

Teachers do not get the rigorous training they need and most teacher prep programs do not give training in high-performing, high-poverty schools, according to the report.

This is where Merit fits in.

Merit programs provide detailed coverage of the core competencies students require to succeed.

Concepts in reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary are covered from the basics to higher levels. Built-in hints and tips support students while they work.

Progress is automatically monitored in an easy-to-use tracking tool for instructors.

The software is adaptive and adjusts to a suitable level of challenge with minimal teacher intervention.

Learn more at www.meritsoftware.com

 

 

Does Digital Reading Hurt Reading Comprehension?

Schoolgirl Using Computer At DeskReading online may be causing people to skim rather than read in depth according to one expert.

With the vast amount of information that comes in onto people’s computers and mobile devices, reading online is causing people to skim rather than read in depth in order to keep up.

Online reading is not necessarily superficial. Merit Software’s online products are in-depth interactive learning tools. In Merit’s Reading Comprehension Booster, for example, online context clues and multiple activities reinforce learning.

Click here to read the article.

Learn more about Reading Comprehension Booster.

Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students

AA053438Academic achievement by 8th grade is the largest predictor of college success according to the recent White House report “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students.”

Merit has a strong track record of improving academic performance in elementary and middle school. The programs also help older students who have not mastered 8th level skills get on-track.

In Merit reading comprehension programs students acquire vocabulary through context, draw conlusions based on relevant information, and learn to find the main idea in a text.

Merit’s Punch writing programs help students write clear, descriptive sentences, organize ideas, and develop paragraphs and essays.

Grammar Fitness helps students with tenses, usage, irregular noun plurals, correction split constructions, and the like.

Click here to read the report “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students”

Learn more about Merit: