Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

In 1996 my journey began, quite literally actually. I started driving long distance haulage and going to night school to improve my German. This was because to get where I needed to be, I had to attain the top 2% in Maths, German and English. This, in essence, was the start of my real love of languages and all because I wanted to complete my degree in IT Sales and Marketing, in Germany, in German. The pre-requisites for starting this “fully funded from the union” retraining program was pretty tough to swallow at first. However, when I came to start the course, it became abundantly clear as to why.

I completed my consolidated 5-year course in just short of 3 years and was awarded the highest ever marked paper in the whole of Germany for my paper on “Selling KVM switches to the German market, from England, using a distributor network”.  (99%)

I attribute a large portion of this success to my German and English tutor during this period of my life, as she was so passionate about the subject matter of language it was impossible to not absorb it by osmosis, never mind anything else. And this passion now runs through me today.

Had it not been for the fact that these pre-requisites were strictly adhered to, I would not have been able to be taught to such a high level in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue. Being able to impart knowledge on another, as any coach, teacher or professor will testify, is not an easy job. Having to do this when the person receiving that knowledge is also limited by their lack of language within which it is being taught, makes it near impossible.

So on to my question of the day! Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

I ask this for a number of reasons, not least of which because of my very own personal experience; which I believe places me in a very unique position of authority.

  1. Companies, organisations, schools, universities, sports clubs, hospitals, small business, in fact, every organisation who could be in contact with the general public, in whatever means, are mandated to deliver health and safety training to all of their staff.
  2. Not all of the staff in these companies/ organisations are native speakers of the companies’ corporate language.
  3. Financial cuts to both public and private sector companies/ organisations.
  4. Brexit
  5. Trump
  6. Polarised political views
  7. And I could continue!

It is quite alarming, when I’m talking to potential prospects about their language requirements for their corporate e-learning material, how many say “well they should speak [INSERT LANGUAGE] because they live in this country” or “It would cost us far too much to do this in all [INSERT QUANTITY] languages of the people we employ”, or something else along those lines. Yet they are all willing to take on these employees because of their work ethic and their acceptance to work at a lower pay grade than most of the domestic low-cost workers in that country. Not only is this practice putting the lives and welfare of these workers at risk, but all that of the general public too. How can they expect an employee, who does not have the corporate language of that company as their mother tongue, to be able to be schooled on Health & Safety?

So in these times of e-learning, where it is now being used consistently for cost saving purposes as well as ease of deployment on a global scale, wouldn’t it be “SAFER” for all involved, if the most critical of training is at least conducted in the mother tongue of the scholar?