February 8, 2010

I’ve just received an e-mail saying that my application to attend the TEDxYYC event has been accepted. I am thrilled an honoured to have the opportunity to attend this event, which restricts attendance to 100 people. I am excited to hear the speakers and eager to meet others who are also attending.

3 Tips for dealing with non-English speakers on the phone

February 5, 2010

Anyone who answers or makes calls is going to encounter someone whose first language isn’t the same as their own. Providing this person speaks enough of the language to understand you, there are three key tactics you can use to set yourself apart from other, less compassionate and understanding people, when it comes to dealing with callers whose first language differs from yours.

Smile. The person on the other end of the phone can “hear” your smile and will respond to your positive energy. About 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so a smile conveys a lot, even if the other person can’t see it. But did you know that the smile is the only universal facial expression? All others can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the culture. But a sincere smile will always transcend words and cultural difference.

Be extra patient. Imagine you are the person on the other end of the phone. You would appreciate it if the native speaker did not jump in while you were still talking, finish your sentences for you or skip to the next point without letting you finish. If you allow a non-native speaker to finish saying what they have to say, listen intently and be patient, you will win respect and trust.

Speak slower, not louder. People whose first language isn’t English may need more time to process the language, but their hearing is probably just as good as yours. If you slow down the pace of your speech and leave longer pauses in between sentences, you will allow the other person time to absorb everything that you are saying. Don’t exaggerate your pauses or tone, but rather think of speaking slowly, clearly and cheerfully. If you do, the person on the other end will know you are trying to be helpful, not patronizing.

(This article is adapted from one published Sept. 8, 2003 in a weekly newsletter for language program marketers and managers on a Yahoo group.)


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

How to market your language program: Idea #1 – Define your program

February 4, 2010

Idea # 1: Define your program before you market it.

Before you begin to market your program, print brochures, create a web page, etc. you need to be clear about exactly what it is you are marketing. How many different types of programs does your school offer? Are they evening programs, intensive academic programs, tutorials? I have been surprised how many times I have asked program coordinators and managers about their programs and they can only answer in vague terms. Listen to the difference between these two possible responses:

“Oh we do a bit of everything…”


“We offer part-time programs for teens and adults from the beginner through advanced levels. In addition, we run a successful workplace learning program, specializing in the manufacturing industry with workers mainly from Asia.”

The person who can give a 10-second definition of his program is more likely to have a clear, directed marketing approach that will fill seats and increase enrollment.

Some people would call this a mission statement. That’s another way of thinking about it, but the idea of developing a mission statement can be overwhelming to some people, so I like to keep things simple and clear.

The bottom line is, if you can’t define what it is that you do best, nobody will know.  Take a few minutes to write down the most important points about your program and courses. Then check with others at the school to see if they would agree.  Your objective is to come up with a short, concise definition of your overall program.

This post is an excerpt from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

3 Key Elements of Leadership

February 3, 2010

Leaders are everywhere. They are business owners, executives and managers. They are teachers. They are parents. Sometimes they are children. Anyone can be a leader. Some people think that being a leader is something that comes with a particular job or vocation. I disagree. After having studied leadership for a number of years, I am convinced that most of us have the capacity to improve ourselves so that we can either become leaders, or improve the natural skills we already have.

There are three key elements of true leadership. The first is to set an example by living it. Many years ago Gandhi said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.  No truer words have ever been spoken. In order to lead powerfully we must first demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors we expect and want from others. This may seem simple, but how many times how you run across a manager whose attitude is “do as I say, not as I do”. These people may be managers, but they’re not leaders.

If you’re a business leader and you want your staff to dress professionally, you set the example by arriving in a suit every day. If you’re a teacher and you want your students to turn in their homework on time, you give them back their corrected assignments in a timely manner. If you’re a parent and you want your children to make their beds, you make your own bed in the morning. No excuses. Leaders live the example they want others to follow.

The second element of true leadership is to inspire others and give them hope. You can turn on any news channel today and see stories of death, despair and terror. It is true that terrible things have happened in the world. Leaders will acknowledge the reality and ask themselves what they can do to keep the human spirit thriving and growing? The answer is often found in hope.

There may not be easy answers to every situation. But there’s always a reason to hope. The resilience and strength of the human spirit are powerful. The strength of our spirit can help us overcome tremendous pain and grief. It is what allows us to continue to love and be loved when we feel all is lost. Leaders recognize this and remind others of it.

Finally, leaders empower others. Everyone has hopes, fears and dreams. Leaders encourage others to pursue their dreams and help them overcome their fears. This means working with others to help them understand how to prepare for success and then make their own dreams reality.

Once when I was coaching a very capable director of an international language program at a university. She expressed frustrations about lack of funding, too little time and too few resources. I replied that as an educational leader, her focus was her students. Educating and empowering them was at the core of her value system, and her work as an educational leader. If she forgot this, then potentially hundreds of students would walk away from her program disillusioned, rather than vibrant with new potential. Realizing this was true, she resolved to do  whatever she could to improve her program so students could continue to grow and learn as a result of it. She later told me that was a pivotal conversation for her, as she realized that her first order of business was to serve her students and help them become the best they could be.

Leaders look beyond themselves and their own wants. With compassion, honesty and guidance leaders will help others to reach their maximum potential as human beings in whatever way they can.

These 3 actions: living the example, inspiring others and empowering others are keys to success and genuine leadership.

See Dr. Eaton speak on this topic on YouTube:


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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