JN employees learn foreign languages

Career & Education

JN employees learn foreign languages

Sunday, December 08, 2019

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More than 100 employees of Jamaica National Group have spent the last six weeks studying conversational French and Spanish as part of a programme to improve communication with customers who speak foreign languages.

Called JN Foreign Chat; Learn a Language, the programme commenced in October, with classes being offered face to face and online to facilitate employees across Jamaica and overseas.

Patrick Carnakie, a credit relations officer at JN Small Business Loans Limited, said he chose to participate as he works in a resort town and regularly interfaces with Spanish-speaking visitors.

“I will continue until I can speak fluently,” he related. “I hope to visit Mexico or Spain, and want to be proficient so that I can communicate without the use of an interpreter.”

Similarly, Marcia Brown, a clerk in the Mail Registry unit at Jamaica National Group, and a former Guardsman security officer, stated that she welcomed the opportunity for self-development.

“I did Spanish and French. It was my first time studying a foreign language, as I did not have the opportunity in school. The teacher used a hands-on approach. He showed videos, and that's my way to learn, because I'm a visual learner.”

“I want to be able to communicate easily in both languages,” she added.

At the helm of the JN Foreign Chat; Learn a Language programme is 24-year-old Rushard Blake, an intern in the JN Group Human Resource Development Department. He is a trained bi-lingual educator, having lived in France for two years where he fine-tuned his French and taught English to children and adults. He returned to Jamaica in July of this year in search of employment and chose JN since he was a JN WAY Ambassador for two years while in college, and worked with the orgaisation for four summers.

“JN welcomed me with open arms,” he related. “So far, my experience has been rewarding. I look forward to coming to work, and it has been motivating, based on the interest and support employees have displayed across the JN Group.”

Head of Learning and Development at the JN Group, Paulette Sterling explaind that the rationale for the foreign language programme was to assist employees to communicate with and meet the needs of the increased number of expatriates who speak French, Mandarin and Spanish, and do business with JN. Also, it reinforces JN's commitment to deliver quality service to members and customers.

“The response has been encouraging. More than 100 staff members voluntarily signed up to participate, which is a testament to the value of lifelong learning,” Sterling said, pointing out that, “This initiative was introduced to provide employees with additional skills which they can use on the job and for their personal development.”

Referencing the 2004 Task Force on Educational Reform Report entitled, Jamaica: A Transformed Education System by Dr Rae Davis, Sterling affirmed that, “The educated Jamaican is one who speaks an additional language.”

The JN Foreign Chat; Learn a Language programme came on the heels of the initiative of Claudia Reid-Williams and Jeffrey Powell of the Christiana Branch, who started to learn Mandarin online last year so that they could better serve the growing number of Mandarin-speaking business operators in Christiana.

“It has been a challenge communicating with some of our Chinese customers because they barely speak English,” Reid-Williams said.

“We had a customer who came in to open an account, however, we couldn't communicate with each other,” she explained. “I, therefore, accompanied him to his workplace, where another Chinese employee assisted us with the translation of our conversation.”

JN said plans are in place to expand the JN Foreign Chat; Learn a Language programme to include Mandarin next year.

It is anticipated that the training provided will enable JN employees to converse in the languages with at least 80 per cent accuracy; and use simple sentences to respond to different situations with at least 70 per cent accuracy.

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