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Hotel Training is Like Learning a Second Language

by Tommy Taylor
September 20, 2011


It seems like only yesterday when it happened—that seminal moment when time stood still.  Angels on high sounded their trumpets.  A golden ray of light fell upon me.  A single tear dropped from my eye.  I’m not even kidding … this paella tasted that good.  And it happened to be my first experience with the national dish of Spain.  This meal inspired me to set about to learn more about its origins, to know more about the culture from which it came.  “If they can create a dish like this in Spain,” I thought to myself, “surely they have flying cars and cures for cancer as well.”  Thus began my life as a full-blown Hispanophile.  My first task: learn the language.  What does that have to do with hotel training?  ¡Mucho!  The lessons I’ve learned in my attempt to become fluent in a second language can be applied to developing better hotel training.  As I review my notes, I will share with you how the lessons I learned apply more broadly to job skills training as a whole.  So, without further ado, the lessons …

Uno: Embracing your inner child is very helpful.
Kids’ movies and books have become my friend since I’ve begun studying español.  As silly as it sounds, reading foreign language children’s books and watching foreign language cartoons and movies is a great way to immerse oneself in a particular language.  The vocabulary is much more accessible, there are less familiar expressions used (more on this in a minute), and, in the case of movies, the pace at which the characters speak is often a few beats slower.  And let’s be honest, they can be downright entertaining sometimes.

As an instructional designer, I’m always focused on adult learning principles (see this blog for more).  I have to say, when it comes to committing a new language to my long-term memory, I’ve found that a little pedagogy mixed in with my andragogy seems to be a winning combination.  If nothing else, it’s a nice reminder to not take this stuff too seriously (if you don’t believe me, just ask the Hispanic Balu).  When training your team members to provide better service, or interact with guests – keep it fun.  Build in some “laugh breaks.”  Use the exploits of SpongeBob or Bugs Bunny to show what can happen when things go wrong and connect that to bad service and things going wrong for the guest.  Everyone will laugh and say, “I’d never do that” but you’d be surprised how many would have, if you hadn’t have made fun of the bad experience.  Bottom line – Successful job skills training has to be fun!

Dos: Idiomatic and familiar expressions are very confusing (and very important).
Idioms and familiar phrases: they’re weird, hilarious, and make zero sense when you’re trying to learn a language unless someone explains their meaning to you.  This, of course, goes for any language – including the internal language of your company or your industry.  Like GNS, ADR, or Folio.  If you try to directly translate an idiom, you’re often left scratching your head wondering what in the world the speaker or writer was actually trying to convey.  A personal favorite of mine from learning Spanish is this Central American Spanish expression: “creerse la última Coca Cola en el desierto.” This phrase is used to refer to someone who thinks highly of him or herself; however, it literally translates to “to think one is the last Coca Cola in the desert” … what?  As strange as it sounds, phrases like this are used all of the time in every language - and in every industry - so it is imperative to learn them if you truly want to attain fluency.  Bottom line – keep the jargon to a minimum with new team members, and consider putting together a dictionary of terms and acronyms.

Tres: Learning a new language – or a new job - should be very enjoyable.
It’s a simple concept, but it’s true: the more fun you have when you’re practicing your new language – or new job - the greater the odds are that you will actually retain what you practice.  Again, because I am an instructional designer by trade, I talk all day about the importance of engaging my audience and I am always trying to employ different techniques to help ensure knowledge transfer truly occurs.  This has spilled over into my life as a student of Spanish, and … surprise … it actually works.  I have found that the more engaged I am, the more receptive I am to learning and retaining new words and phrases.  But wait, there’s more!  When I’m having fun practicing, I’m more comfortable speaking and listening as well, which are the two activities that most new language learners cite as being the most difficult (as opposed to reading and writing).  Making your job skills practice fun is really a win-win for you…your team members will have more fun and will remember more of what you teach them too.

Well folks, that about wraps it up.  If I had to summarize all of these points into one, it would be this: learning a new language, like learning new job skills, can be very challenging at times – but can also be fun!  You do not have to spend hours and hours practicing vocabulary drills or verb conjugation charts (although they can be made fun in their own right) or other job related tasks.  It’s up to you as to how enjoyable learning your new job skills can be.  Good luck in all of your language-learning AND job skills endeavors and check out some of Orgwide's multi-language projects here!



About the Author:

Tommy Taylor is fond of words. A few years after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a degree in English, Tommy began putting his love of words to some good use when he joined the OrgWide Services team in August of 2005. Since then, he has leveraged his writing and instructional design skills to assist clients with the development of highly effective eLearning and communications assets for various industries, ranging from logistics to medicine.  Bored with the English language, Tommy is currently pursuing a second degree in Spanish. When he’s not busy creating top-notch eLearning and communications assets, Tommy volunteers as an English tutor for immigrant middle school students. He also loves running, playing the drums, and exploring the various forms of chili in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife Erin and dog Rufus.
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Contact:

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586
jim.hartigan@orgwide.com
www.orgwide.com


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