One day a week all teammates are encouraged to speak English only for the whole day. This means that not only our meetings are held in English but also our lunch time and informal conversations as well as all written communication via emails and Slack.
Why do we do that?
All of us have been learning English since primary school which means we have a long track record with that language. The only problem is that state education favors writing and reading rather than speaking. That results in people being rather shy or restrained about having regular conversations in English.
That is definitely a problem for some offshore companies as it cannot be ignored that English is in the centre of programming languages, documentation, best books and events. We’ve realised that if we want to compete with the best dev shops for the best international projects we need to make English our second mother-language and there is no shortcut around that.
That’s why we came up with English Wednesdays: to actively and regularly improve our English skills on all levels so that the language barrier between us and our clients ceases to exist. It’s also good fun to break up our work week with such an untypical routine (just imagine the faces of postman and food delivery guys when we start answering them in a different language!).
What are the biggest challenges?
Implementing changes in the workplace has to gain an approval of all teammates. That’s why one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that everyone understands why we organize English Wednesdays so that one feels comfortable with them. We truly trust that only the true inner motivation and the desire to achieve higher skill level turns into better results.
That matters especially when new people join our company. It’s important to explain to them our goals and show them potential benefits of this kind of learning. There is a significant role of the rest of the team who have been working with us longer. They provide ‘freshmen’ with support and motivate them to keep speaking English even when we take up difficult topics.
The last but not least challenge is correcting each other. During our conversations it’s hard to represent a teacher’s approach i.e. point out and correct mistakes. That’s why several weeks ago we’ve decided to add professional English lessons to our daily agenda. Our English teacher gives us useful pronunciation tips, explains grammar difficulties and introduces sophisticated vocabulary – all of which significantly speed up our learning process
Let’s talk about the effects
What results have we achieved since introducing English Wednesdays? The benefits are invaluable.
First of all, we all have a frequent contact with English which results in the increased speaking fluency. We now feel fully comfortable with switching from Polish to English no matter the situation.
What’s particularly important to our work, we’re able to communicate with our clients more effectively. As a result, their trust has increased as well as the mutual pleasure of collaboration. They see us as a reliable partner who can fully engage in their project without any language barriers.
Other important benefits include broader learning possibilities. English gives us wider access to knowledge. We gain more from international IT scene: conferences, events, presentations and literature.
At Sunscrapers we create unique development possibilities and English Wednesdays are just one piece of our outstanding work culture. There will be time to talk about the rest of them, which are: tech Thursdays, code reviews, our library and other. Our purpose is to ensure that every teammate has all means to become a better version of himself.