‘Cross-Cultural Communication & Expression in Business’

With much pleasure, I have been teaching first year students on the BScBA (Business Administration) at Nyenrode Business University since the start of the academic year 2016-2017.

The intention of my course is to give the students a boost in English speaking skills at the start of their academic careers. The entire university program runs in English and for some students, the switch to communicating in a non-native tongue can be a shock to the system, something I can easily understand from my own experiences during my first few years in Germany & in the Netherlands.

The course runs over four months & covers a wide range of topics. The ultimate focus is on speaking skills within a business context but in my experience, it is impossible to teach a language effectively without discussing cross-cultural differences & how these pertinent differences ultimately affect how we communicate and the results we achieve. This is the underlying thread that runs throughout my entire course.

Following the usual grammar bashing, two main events during the course were the mid-term debate and the preparation & giving of a Ted Talk. It was an absolute pleasure to see how much all the students had improved in a reasonably short space of time and to witness the different approaches to the debate and the diversity of the final topics chosen for the Ted Talk. Additionally, Nyenrode focuses on personal development and another reason for offering the students this course is to provide a mock ‘performance’ platform to help build self-esteem & confidence in a non-pressurised environment.

I also accepted the personal challenge of doing a Ted Talk myself. Not an activity I do every day but as a trainer, I think it is only fair that you are at least prepared to put yourself in the situation of daring to show if you actually practice what you preach!

As Nyenrode works very much on the principal that students learn to evaluate each other, this also gave us the opportunity to practice ‘peer evaluation’ & how to give constructive criticism in a positive way by making clear linguistic choices and using positive as opposed to negative sentence formulations, vocabulary & personal pronouns. We had practiced this throughout the course but the ultimate challenge was for the students to have to evaluate their native teacher! I had a great rapport with the students so was not worried about this unduly.

Nevertheless, the students surpassed my expectations! Despite learning much from their feedback, it was incredibly inspiring to see certain elements of their lessons regurgitated back in the personal evaluation of my own talk. This was the ultimate proof that students had really listened but more importantly, had really taken my advice on board. The feedback proved to be very useful (and most positive!) but as a trainer, the most uplifting aspect was the fact that the feedback was delivered in a really positive and constructive manner. I could see that the lessons had really helped and that is the most important thing – the students were thinking & starting to think actively, per situation.

We rounded off the year with a party in the Nyenrode student bar – the cherry on the cake, as we say in English! Some students are in a band and I had the pleasure of seeing them in action in a totally different way. It was also lovely that a few of my group team leaders from my first year at Nyenrode were able to join us as well as the BScBA Programme Director, Mark Slaman.

Mark gave a speech about me that I will always value. In brief – “Victoria, your personal commitment & drive to improve the language skills of these students has surpassed every possible expectation that we could ever have had.” What a superb compliment!

Teaching at Nyenrode Business University has certainly shown me that I can learn as much from my students as they can learn from me. This is one of the reasons I will always remain a teacher – not only to hopefully inspire but in turn, to be inspired and this demonstrates exactly how much of a team effort a language training really is. The collective is only as effective as its individual parts & in both my view and that of Taleninstituut Nederland, the course at Nyenrode has once again proved to be a huge success. A heartfelt thanks to all involved because the organization of such a training is also a team effort.

I am very much looking forward to teaching the course again in the 2018-2019 academic year & to giving the next group of students a language boost at the start of their academic lives. Onwards and Upwards, I say!

Victoria Laws
Senior Trainer Business & Legal English