Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

How to Get Your Company to Pay for Your English Classes

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 @ 09:09 AM

company English classes BostonAre you in this situation?

You are an experienced professional in your field and you have recently been transferred to work at your company's U.S.-based location for a few years. Since the day you arrived, you have felt uneasy at work.

You know that you have the skillls to help your company. You have skills that your American colleagues don't have, but the only thing that is holding back is your English.

You feel nervous before you enter meetings and you usually hang out in the back of the room and avoid asking questions. You have had clients and colleagues ask you to repeat because they couldn't understand what you were saying. You have had emails sent back to you because your grammar made it hard to understand what you were trying to say. In those moments, you wanted to crawl under your desk and hide from the world, right?

Enough is enough. This has to stop.

You want to be able to use your expertise to succeed in your job like you did in your home country. You want to stop letting English be your barrier.

It's time to work with an English teacher.

The only problem is, you don't know if you can afford it.

Well, what if you could get your company to pay for your lessons? In today's article, we will talk about how and why you should approach your boss with this request.

Keep reading to learn how to do it.



Don't be ashamed to admit that you need help

 English student with hands on faceDon't suffer in silence!

You might be feeling embarrassed about the fact that you aren't able to understand your colleagues at work or that you are constantly having to repeat yourself because they can't understand your pronunciation. It is stressful to go through this every day!

But maybe you think it's better to keep your problems a secret and to find an English teacher and pay for the classes on your own. If that is the case, you will be limited in the number of classes that you are able to pay for and you will have to give up something else, like your gym membership or something.

If you can get past that fear of admitting that you need help, you can let your company know that you need a teacher and ask if they would be willing to pay. They might be thrilled that you want to improve because they know that you are a valuable employee but that you aren't able to contribute to your potential because your English is holding you back.

It's worth a try isn't it?



Anticipate your employer's objections


Before you approach your employer with your request, you need to anticipate her potential concerns with your proposal. She might be worried that the investment won't pay off.

She might be concerned that the lessons will take you away from other important business like meetings or presentations. She might also be so busy with her own work that she does not realize how much you are actually struggling with your English skills. Prepare an answer for each of these objections to ease your employer's mind and get her on board with this decision.



Plan ahead and ask at the right time


Companies make financial and budget decisions at certain times during the year. Every company is different.

Figure out when your company will be making decisions about extra money and plan to ask at that time. Don't ask at a time when the budget seems tight or the company is under a lot of pressure.

If you aren't sure when the best time is to present your request, find someone who is in Human Resources and invite them to lunch. Ask for information and advice about how to approach this. They will know the budget cycle and can suggest the best plan of action.



Demonstrate how this investment will help your company

Boston English return on investment English classesIt's all about ROI (return on investment). If your company doesn't make a profit, they are out of business. It's that simple. It sounds harsh, but it's true. Therefore, every single thing they choose to invest in must either solve a problem that is stopping them from making a profit or help them make more of a profit.

You know that your English skills are holding you back from performing at your best at work, but does your boss know that? For some of our students in Boston and New York, their bosses have asked them to look for an English trainer, but in many cases, students have sought out our classes by themselves.

Here are three examples of how you could demonstrate to your boss how your company would benefit from the classes.



situation one Boston English classes for international sales professionalsSituation 1:

You work in sales and you have to communicate with your American colleagues through conference calls every day. You have the knowledge, skills, and a deep understanding of the market, but the only thing holding you back is your ability to understand what your American colleagues are saying and to be understood by them on the phone.

While you participate in the weekly meetings and conference calls, you often sit quietly and do not add anything. You often have an idea or insight that could really help, but you are afraid to contribute. What if they don't understand you? What if you don't understand their follow up questions? You often decide that it's better to stay quiet and not share your expertise to avoid possible embarrassment.


Here's what your company is losing without English lessons for you:

As things are now, your company is losing valuable time, potential new ideas and strategies, and teamwork between colleagues who have different points of view. They have the potential for amazing ideas to come out when teams of people from different countries and cultures come together, but they can't take advantage of that because you aren't sharing your knowledge. These are all things that could change with focused English practice and perhaps even cross-cultural training for your American colleagues. To take it one step further, can you put a dollar value on that? Try working with someone in HR to put some numbers to your claim. Exactly how much money are they losing? Make it concrete and state your case with confidence.



 situation 2  international professionals in pharmaceuticals English lessonsSituation 2: You are a research scientist for a pharmaceuticals company and you have just finished a year-long study in which you have identified a new use for a drug. This discovery has not been made by anyone else.

You have discovered something exciting that will help both your company and the general public because it will offer a new treatment option for people who are sick. There is an industry conference coming up in a few months, but while you are proud of your discovery, you are also terrified by the idea of having to present your research at a conference full of native English speakers. You have been struggling with your pronunciation and you are sure that no one will understand your presentation. You are thinking about asking someone else to make the presentation for you.


Here is what your company could gain with English lessons for you:

If your company decided to provide financial support for your English lessons, you would be able to prepare for your presentation. You would be able to improve your pronuciation, intonation and the ability to present to an American audience, which is not the same as presenting to your home culture. What could your company gain? Recognition, prestige, and a competitive edge.



 situation 3 international professionals moving to U.S. English classesSituation 3: You have been working in the banking sector in your home country for many years. In about a year, your company plans to transfer you to the United States. You are an experienced stock trader and a valuable asset to your company.

However, you know that moving to the U.S. is not going to be easy. You will need to gain a better understanding of how to communicate in everyday life outside of work, in order to remain happy in your new life abroad.



Here is what your company could lose if they don't invest in your English lessons:

Your success with your international assignment will not happen if you aren't able to adjust to the new culture outside of work. You need to gain an understanding of how to negotiate a lease, how to order food in a restaurant, and what to expect with the stages of cultural adjustment.

Simply put, they are at risk of losing YOU.

Expatriates often end up quitting their jobs and returning home early because they aren't able to adjust to the culture and daily life in a new city. One study, performed in 1990, found that up to 40% of expatriate managers do not succeed in their new positions abroad. Explain to your boss that in order for you to succeed at work, both you and your family will need to focus on English and cross-cultural skills.

Ask your English teacher to contact your company

 desk phoneSince you are asking your company to pay for this, your company may want to see that you have made a good choice for an English teacher. In most cases, it will be your responsibility to identify a good English teacher initially.

Search online or get a personal recommendation from another international professional.

Do a trial lesson and see if you feel comfortable with the teacher. Then, make your proposal to your company and ask your English teacher to contact your company by phone or to stop in for a meeting. He or she should have testimonials and examples of previous students who have benefited and helped their company grow because they have invested in their English improvement.



Remind your employer that the lessons will be flexible

 day plannerYour employer might be concerned that the lessons will take you away from something at work. For that reason, you should find an English trainer who is able to keep a flexible schedule and can change the lesson time with 24 hours' notice.

Meetings often occur at the last minute. Sometimes you need to work toward a deadline and will have to change your lesson day or time.

Remind your employer that this is the benefit of working with a private English teacher and that the lessons can be rescheduled if needed.


Don't assume that you have to pay for your English lessons by yourself!

Not all employers are willing to pay for English lessons for their employees, but if you follow my advice above and do a good job of showing your employer how the lessons will help the company move forward, he or she might be willing to pay! It never hurts to ask!

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Photo credit: Tax Credits, foleymo, Moe_, the Italian voice, .reid.

Expat study: as cited in Neill, J. (2008). The expatriate venture: What role does cross-cultural trianing play and what theories guide research in the field? View study here

Topics: Advice for English Students, Expatriate Support

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