Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cross Cultural Communication Strategy

A couple of tutors in recent weeks have come to me with problems related to learners who had done a no-call no-show (NCNS), meaning that their learners stood them up at the library where they were to meet. They waited a while, not hearing anything from their learners until they gave up and went home, understandably disappointed and frustrated. In the course of trying to advise them I came up with some communication strategies to share with you.

1. State your assumptions. Tell your learner what you expected to do when you signed up to be a tutor, for instance things like what and how you planned to teach, how often and for how much time. State that you promise to be on time and ask your learner to do the same.

2. Ask explicit questions rather than leaving matters implied. Ask what she thinks "on time" means - can it be as much as ten or fifteen minutes after the stated start time? How much time do you have to spend on homework? Do you listen to voicemail? When you do, do you respond to it the same day?

3. Give yourself the extra time you need to hear and confirm that you understand what she says. Lesson objectives are important, but managing personalities and cultures has to happen. In short, you should not be in a hurry to get through every objective on your lesson plan.

4. Do not take it personally if he or she fails to live up to your expectations. By this I mean don't assume that a student's failure to behave as expected comes from a lack of respect, motivation or commitment. People have desire to learn, but sometimes they lack the skill or the wherewithal to turn that desire into sustained action. Maybe this item should be #1.

5. Set yourself up to succeed. If you expect that your learner should communicate with you if they can't make it, then it's in your interest to make sure they can communicate. Have you taught them how to leave a voice message in English? During a lesson, get together with a cell phone and practice listening so the learner can understand what the outgoing message says. Then practice several canned responses. One should say, "I will see you tonight at the library." Another, "I will be fifteen minutes late. Please wait for me." Between lessons assign your learner a homework project to leave you a voicemail message at work or on your cell phone.

But what do you think? Do you have any strategies that you have used successfully to forestall a NCNS crisis? Please share them and I will share this advice with future tutors in training.

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