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пятница, 17 августа 2012 г.

A Fascinating Interview with George Sandford: Part 2

Yesterday I shared with you the first part of our interview with George Sandford, a Business English Magazine editor, a teacher, writer, and consultant. His textbooks are unique in content and approach. I invite you to read the second part of our interview where Mr. Sandford will share about his experience of working in Poland and say more about his textbook on English for Human Resources Personnel.

Personally, I have never seen a textbook to train HR personnel until I came across your book. Is there a growing demand for this type of English language training or would you call yourself a pioneer? How does this book help an HR manager to excel in her job?

There is another book on the market published by Oxford Press a few ago and written by Pat Pledger. It would be inappropriate for me to criticise that book but mine is a much more modern text. It covers many current themes such as Talent Management, Psychometric Testing and HR and Employer Branding. I would like to think that I have a pioneering approach to writing English language materials because narrative is very important to me and I think story telling is the best learning medium. Each of the ten chapters is set in an organisation covering various industry sectors in different countries. The scripts are highly authentic and do not have the artificial feel that many books have. Each chapter is structured to introduce key vocabulary as well as sample documents and typical HR processes. The book will help an HR person because not only does it provide relevant language but examples of best practice. As a former HR manager and consultant, I am able to provide this.

I understand that you are working in Poland. Even though it is not exactly the "eastern bloc" there might be some similarities to the former Soviet Union countries considering the Slavic background. What are some linguistic and cultural challenges for people of Slavic descent working in HR departments at some prominent international companies?


Without a doubt Poland is affected by both its Slavic roots and recent socialist history. Linguistically, perhaps the hardest language area to master is the use of articles as these do not occur in the mother tongue and it is therefore something of an abstract concept and guesswork. The ‘rules’ relating to article use are many with many exceptions so they are not really possible to learn mechanically. In terms of a learning style, schools have traditionally instilled a learning by rote and grammar drill method. Thus, many students can do well in written grammar tests but are unable to apply their knowledge to free speech. Many find the flexibility and inconsistency of English frustrating compared to the more rigid and predictable German and Russian.

Culturally, many of the larger organisations are British, American, Swedish or German owned and use English as their Lingua Franca. In general, the Slavic mentality is more suspicious and negative so adopting ‘western’ ideas can still be difficult. There is a strong culture of formal contracting. I was once told by a school to cancel a lesson with the CEO of one of the country’s biggest banks because they were still waiting for the contract to be signed. I said I would do the lesson anyway, free if necessary, as I didn’t see the sense in risking upsetting the client and losing the contract. The school thought this was a very strange attitude - a difference in perspectives.

Therefore, the greatest challenge facing HR people here is how to reconcile the corporate demands to be more progressive with an essentially cautious workforce. The underpinning mindset is still essentially defensive believing win/lose is the likely outcome of a transaction.

OnlinEnglish is very thankful to Mr. Sandford for answering these questions. If you would like to learn more about his textbooks, please read more here

Thank you for reading this interview! You can share your impressions in the comments.