ESL: Learn to Speak Your Professional Language
Language Education for Accounting Professionals (L.E.A.P.)
by Theresa Wojtasiewicz
Language: the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
Culture: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time
From Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary, www.m-w.com
I met a man a few years ago who had just recently come over from Jordan. He was qualified as an accountant in his country of origin, but he did not have Canadian experience or Canadian qualifications to get a job in the accounting field; nor was he confident about his English language skills at the time. Over the past two years, while working at a low-paying job, he attended university to get his Canadian qualifications and he now has full time employment in his field.
Within the next 10 years, at least one-third of accountants in Canada will be retiring. For an internationally trained accountant, this is good news. It means there will be jobs in his or her field. However, many newcomers who are qualified accountants in their country of origin may still find it difficult to get a job in their field, and be forced to take lower paying jobs in other industries. Or, they may get employment in their field but find themselves unable to get promoted to the next level because of their limitations in written and/or oral language skills. Or, they may be held back because of difficulties adjusting to the differences between Canadian business culture and the business culture in their country of origin.
This is where L.E.A.P. – Language Education for Accounting Professionals – can help.
L.E.A.P. helps newcomers in the accounting field find the solutions for problems they may be having that keep them from excelling in their jobs and going up the promotion list.
An employer, for example, might tell the employee at his or her six month review that while they do their jobs well, their writing skills are poor, or their heavy accent may be preventing their clients from understanding them well. Even something as ordinary as a handshake could pose difficulties in the workplace which an employer might point out, for example, in Asian business culture, shaking hands with your boss is rude while in Canadian business culture shaking hands when greeting one another is normal, and expected.
What does L.E.A.P. offer?
L.E.A.P. looks at each individual student’s situation and builds a program that focuses on what areas the student needs to improve in.
- Spoken English vs. written English
Speaking grammatically correct English may be more difficult than writing it for the newcomer. Also, they may not be comfortable knowing when it is acceptable to break the rules of grammar when speaking. In the Grammar for Speakers of English and English Conversation for Office Professionals classes, the student will increase their vocabulary and understand and become comfortable with how and when to use formal and informal language in the workplace.
- Written communication
In the Business Writing class, students will learn how to write and respond to emails, memos, letters, and reports, how to respond to complaints and billing issues, and how and when to use formal vs. informal language.
There are two classes for pronunciation, which can be taken in any order, according to the student’s needs. The pronunciation classes will help the student develop a ‘neutral’Canadian accent by learning to understand the sounds of English – what vowels and consonants (and their combinations) sound like, as well as the rhythm, stress (what syllables are stronger in a word) and intonation of spoken English
- Office Culture for Businesspeople in Canada
Culture exists not only among people of the same ethnic and religious backgrounds, but also in social and business groups. This class will help the student understand business culture in Canada and how to talk and interact with their colleagues and clients as Canadian business people do.
How did L.E.A.P. begin?
The founder of L.E.A.P., Vincent Dong, is an accountant with his own firm who is a first generation Canadian born to parents who immigrated from Hong Kong. When he first began to research the possibility of operating an English as a second language school, he realized that there was a need to train newcomers how to speak the language of business – in this particular case, in his own field, accounting.
He spoke to employers, asking them what they thought their employees needed to get past barriers to advancement and from that, created the programs and classes that L.E.A.P. would offer. Teachers at L.E.A.P. are highly qualified in teaching and have business experience in foreign countries, have extensive E.S.L. training, and are TESOL certified or equivalent.
L.E.A.P.’s first classes started this year in May, and the program is continuing to evolve. Classes are small, allowing students to have more individual attention from their instructors. As each student’s needs are different, the program is tailored to what the student’s particular problems and issues are. L.E.A.P. is a privately run program whose classes are held at The York School at 1320 Yonge Street, in Toronto.
How do I find out if I qualify for L.E.A.P.?
Call or email the Executive Director, Catherine Blakley, to make an appointment for an assessment test. The test lasts one hour and will determine if you have the minimum requirements for the program and also what level you are at so that you can set goals for what you want to achieve by the end of the course. L.E.A.P. is also available to those who have received all of their education in accounting in Canada or want to become accounting professionals, but who have English as a second language and who may not have background or experience in Canadian business.
What courses does L.E.A.P. offer and how much does it cost?
There are several programs that run at different lengths. You can choose the one that best suits your needs and you have the option to return for other courses. See the sidebar for program fees. Registration fee is $100 per session. There is a materials fee of $100 per session as well.
L.E.A.P Program Fees
Fundamentals Program: $565 /Session
6 hours per week for 8 weeks (2 evenings a week)
Comprehensive Enrollment: $735 /Session
6 hours per week for 12 weeks (2 evenings a week)
Intensive Program: $400 /Session
6 hours per week for 6 weeks (Saturdays)
Private Class/Lesson: $50 /Hour