The Linguist

The Linguist 55,5

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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14 The Linguist Vol/55 No/5 2016 FEATURES Why multinationals in Germany are offering refugees language and cultural awareness classes. By Frances Mechan-Schmidt "W e will manage," said the German Chancellor Angela Merkel last September, as hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing the war-torn Middle East via the Balkans, came to Germany. The phrase, from the German version of the Bob the Builder theme song, came to embody German resilience at coping with the sheer number of desperate people crossing the borders. It also captured the mood of the Wilkommenskultur ('welcoming culture') many Germans felt as they came out to greet refugees arriving at bus and train stations, proffering gifts of sweets and toys . Buoyed by this, and with typical German efficiency, the government distributed the new arrivals throughout the country. Huge numbers of citizens volunteered to help clothe and feed them, or find them accommodation. Others gave German lessons to asylum seekers hoping to stay and work in the country. "All in all, around 1.1 million refugees have entered Germany within the last year," said Raimund Becker, Chairman of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA), Germany's Federal Labour Office. "Around 600,000 will be granted asylum and around 70% of that figure, i.e. between 350,000 and 400,000, will enter the job market." It is hardly surprising, therefore, that by the end of 2015, more than 230,000 refugees had enrolled in German language courses, subsidised by the BA, in the hope of improving their chances of work. However, this was far in excess of government estimates, which had forecast around 100,000 applicants. So it must have come as a pleasant surprise when McDonald's Germany announced, late last year, that it would sponsor 20,000 German language courses for refugees. "We have always provided online language courses for our own employees," a company spokesman said, "so it was only natural McDonald's Germany would support the integration of refugees through language courses, too." By July, almost 50% of applicants (9,000 people) had registered for a BA online language course sponsored by the fast-food giant. Users of Lingua TV, McDonald's language- portal partner, activate an online language- learner licence, valid for three months. They have a choice of 15 courses, from beginners A1 to advanced C1 level. They can learn at their own pace with the aid of videos that explain the use of words and expressions through role-play scenarios. The real-life situations depicted include introductions, doctor's appointments and job interviews. Online learning tools, as well as interactive language exercises and games, round off the concept. Advanced users can train their communication skills through mock business phone calls, or improve their writing proficiency via job applications. Getting ahead McDonald's Germany's multinational staff represent 125 nations and work in 1,500 fast-food outlets throughout the country. The company views language acquisition as a crucial factor for successful integration. "We at McDonald's have a lot of experience Lessons by McDonald's USER-FRIENDLY A still from Lingua TV, the language- learning portal used by McDonald's

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