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Case Study: BASF

BASF HR Manager comes to York to improve her English

Daniele Otten (pictured left), an HR Manager from BASF in Germany talked to Nicky Pirozek, one of our senior instructors, about her job and her experiences with English language training in York.

Transcript of interview with Daniele Otten on 16 Nov 2011:

NICKY: Hello Daniele, thank you very much for taking part in this interview.

DANIELE: Hello. Itís my pleasure.

NICKY: Daniele, could you tell me what your role is at BASF and when you use English in your job?

DANIELE: Well, Iíve worked for BASF for 20 years and my current job is HR Business Manager for three corporate units within BASF: the communication unit, the legal unit and the strategic unit. Most of my daily work is to advise the managers from these three units in all HR issues.

NICKY: At the moment, when do you use English in your job?

DANIELE: Mostly when I do job interviews as I am also in charge of recruiting new employees and some of them are not able to speak German, because they come from other countries. It is a great challenge for me because in the last years I never used the English language, as the company hardly hired anyone who couldnít speak German, but in the last couple of years this has changed.

NICKY: So when did you last use your English?

DANIELE: In the past few weeks more and more and that was the reason why I chose to come here. I found my English was not good enough to do these interviews.

NICKY: So thatís one of the reasons you want to improve your English. Why did you come to England and in particular why did you come to York to do this?

DANIELE: I started to use my English in summer 2010 once a week for 1 hour with a teacher. We did this for 3-4 months and the result was not very good, because this 1 hour was more an interrupting of my work days than a help. So I thought this could not be the best way to learn English and I talked to my boss and proposed to go to England and have the opportunity to focus only on English and not be interrupted by work.

NICKY: And has it worked? Has your English improved in the last two weeks?

DANIELE: Yes, Iím sure my English has improved. I know a lot more words and I think I have learned to speak more fluently and I have learned a lot of methods and strategies to use my English in a way so I donít translate directly from German.

NICKY: Your experience here, your training course, how is it different from what you expected?

DANIELE: I expected it to be the same situation as in school: ďfrontalĒ teaching where a teacher says something and I have to repeat it. I was very anxious about this, so I am happy that this never happened in the two weeks.

NICKY: That brings us nicely to the next question: what have you enjoyed the most while youíve been here? In the training situation and also in the host family and the city of York?

DANIELE: In all three cases it is much better than I expected. The atmosphere at SLS is not only a business environment, I also felt very welcome here as a person and the teachers are always interested in their participants.  It is not only a job for them.

I work for a big company and I have met a lot of professional people and concepts and the first impression I had in my first lesson was: Wow, this is very professional! The teachers are very professional, the materials are professional and the technical facilities are modern and up-to-date. An example: when I started I was in a group course and the members of the group had different levels and backgrounds and the teacher was flexible and made the course fit everyone. She thought more of the participants needs than about rigidly sticking to the concept. The needs of the participants were in front.  (My English training in Germany was not focused on my job and professional needs.)

NICKY: Daniele, I know you have been staying with a host family these past two weeks. Can you recommend this type of accommodation?

DANIELE: Yes, I can recommend it.  Iím not sure if everyone will have the same comfortable situation as the age of the family and myself was a good fit. The accommodation and the facilities were all perfect.  The family were always flexible, helpful and interested. Before coming I was not sure whether this was the right decision, since I also had the opportunity to stay in a hotel, but it was a very positive experience.

NICKY: So, would you say that staying in a host family added to your experience of developing your English?

DANIELE: Yes, they were very interested to speak with me, sometimes it was the opposite situation: I was too tired after my lessons to speak with them in the evening!

NICKY: Okay. If you had a colleague or somebody who wanted to improve their English by going to England could you recommend this course? What advise would you give them and why?

DANIELE: I would say go to England. Go to the country, because not only the lessons improve your English, the time surrounding the lessons also improve your English skills. I would recommend SLS because of the flexibility. Another form of flexibility that I discovered was that you can combine different courses. I had a group course first and then a 1-to-1 course and I think this was really helpful. They were really flexible and interested to find the right course for the individual participant.

NICKY: Okay. Are you planning to come back to York or SLS in the future?

DANIELE: I am sure that I want to come back, but I am not sure that my company is willing to give me the time necessary, because my daily work has to be done. But I think they are very interested in improving my English and I will give very positive feedback, so yes, I will come back!

NICKY: Final question: any final comments or suggestions you would like to give us?

DANIELE: I would like to say that before starting at SLS I got some information and looked at the internet and I now think SLS offers a lot more than what I can see on the internet. And I suggest that SLS shows a lot more of what they really give their participants, because you can say very proudly what you are doing.

NICKY: Thank you very much and we hope to see you back here very soon.

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