English proficiency a business advantage

by Christina Tai

Tony Lee, academic director, Wall Street Institute

As Hong Kong transforms into a knowledge-based economy, future business leaders will need communications and language skills that reflect the multi-national environment

With heavy foreign investment in the Greater China region, an ability to write and speak English has become an essential requirement for those seeking career advancement. According to the latest research from WSI, English tops Mandarin and Japanese as the most popular choice of language study. This indicates that English proficiency is regarded as an important factor in career advancement.

Qualifications alignment

"The introduction of the Government's new qualification framework (2006, 2007) - the Hong Kong Workplace English Benchmarks (HKWEB), is likely to become the standard by which English language proficiency is measured," says Dr Tony Lee, academic director of Wall Street Institute (WSI). The qualifications framework is designed to ensure that qualifications obtained by employees taking courses are standardised, to facilitate employers' recognition in promoting and recruiting staff with the right skills and knowledge.

A recent study shows that Wall Street Institute's course progression ladder aligns with the University of Cambridge ESOL Examination's (Cambridge ESOL) Business Language Testing Service (BULATS) assessment tool. Endorsed by the Hong Kong Government as a benchmark test for workplace English, BULATS is one of the widely recognised business English language tests worldwide, with its scale aligned with the global standard of English language set by the Council of Europe's Common Europe Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

WSI's alignment study was undertaken with the assistance of Cambridge ESOL. When the certification process of teaching and assessment methods is completed, WSI will be the first international English learning centre to be fully aligned with the CEFR.

In other words, WSI's students are already being placed on both the government and internationally recognised lifelong learning pathways, which allow them to successfully achieve goals in business, career and their personal lives.

Tailor-made training

WSI's philosophy is that "every student has unique learning needs." Therefore, the institute provides students with personalised attention, and its experienced staff will ensure that students' learning objectives are met. To generate optimal learning results, students first take an assessment test to determine their general standards, before they embark on the appropriate level of the 17-level English language programme. Corporate Training programmes are tailor-made to meet the needs of working adults with different levels of English ability and work responsibilities. For example, the teaching focus can be placed on handling complaints for members of a customer service team.

Dr Lee believes that self-directed learning, supported by a reliable computer system to monitor activities, is the best method for language training. "It allows students to learn creatively and to gain confidence," he says. A multimedia lab is available to practise listening and pronunciation skills. Tutorial classes conducted by native English speakers are also on offer for no more than four students of similar ability, to reinforce taught materials.

Catalystic methodology

According to Dr Lee, Hong Kong learners who have retained some English from their secondary school days find themselves making amazing progress within a relatively short period of time. "Our teaching methodology acts like a catalyst that invigorates students' knowledge," he remarks.

To excel in anything, a genuine interest is a prerequisite. Ms Reiko Kwok, WSI's corporate affairs and communications director stresses that: "The moment students walk into WSI, a natural, friendly, supportive and cheerful English speaking environment is open to them. The objective is to make their English learning experience enjoyable." Students can also join the many WSI social club activities to further polish their conversational skills.

WSI helps students attain measurable improvements in just six months. "Our focused teaching helps students internalise their learning, so that they can upgrade their language spontaneity," Ms Kwok adds.

Such visible improvements promote effectiveness at work, and enhance the company's image. This success is largely due to the record of excellence at the Wall Street Institute, which offers Hong Kong people an innovative approach to English language instruction that combines the best of interactive tuition with the latest technology.


Taken from Career Times 30 June 2006
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