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Will training in Hong Kong be very different to UK/Ireland any tips?


I have to give a course in Hong Kong to a groupd of undergraduates. It would be the same course as I would give in Ireland or the UK, but I'm not sure if culturally the group dynamics will be very different. Can I assume my usual in class group exercises will work? Can I assume students will have no problem interacting and participatin in class. Will it be ok to assign in class quick presentations? In short where can I go to read up on any "issues" changes I should make to my training style in order to give a good course.

4 Responses

  1. Training in Hong Kong
    Hi there,
    My business partner and I trained extensively in Hong Kong when we worked for M&S Franchise group as Training Managers. Like you, we were delivering the same courses as in the UK but to people for whom english was not their first language.
    Our main tips would be
    slow down your delivery completely
    beware of using too many ‘english idioms’
    constantly check for understanding in your groups -more than you would normally (because your delivery is slower you have more time to do this)
    You will find your delegates to be excessively polite -they will say yes to please you even when they don’t understand -if in any doubt ask a question to check or ‘aim’ the next open question at the person you are unsure about.
    do not be disconcerted by what appears to be ‘talking’ when you are training -often a delegate will be asking a colleague to explain a word or phrase you have used
    We used exactly the same material as the UK including the icebreakers -participation was usually no problem -people are keen and enthusiatic to be involved (makes a nice change -I hear you say!)

    If we can help any more please contact us via this page or our website
    Have a great trip
    Tracy Francksen
    Red Door Coaching and Training

  2. Training in Hong Kong
    I agree with Lynne’s comments. I’d also add from my experiences that participation in larger groups worked even better there than in the UK. Some questions were quite challenging but I soon learnt that this was not personal and was more a desire to ‘test’ the learning to make sure it is robust. I found it useful, where possible, to let them undertake syndicate work in Cantonese rather than English. People particularly liked stories, examples and case studies to bring the learning to life.
    The group dynamics were different – though I’m not sure I can articulate that difference – but not so much so that I found it a problem. Saving face is an issue (not disagreeing with other people, especially senior people and you). Having some more vocal and some quieter is a fairly universal issue. As always I’d suggest you make sure that quieter people have the opportunity to contribute but don’t force them.
    Some other more general tips – take something warm to work. It may be a sauna outside but the aircon in the offices can be icy. I needed to take an extra 10 mins to get to work – queuing for the lifts! Check out things like toilets, you may need to have a key. I’m sure there will be different issues where you are but they will give you some examples of what caught me by surprise.
    Finally, as with anywhere in the world, I suggest learning a few words and phrases.
    Best of luck

  3. Training in Hong Kong
    Having trained mixed ethnic groups in Australia including Chinese, Vietnamese and Thais the main thing to be aware of is they have a tendency to pay lip service to what you say rather than give you open feedback. Conflict with other ethnic groups tends to be avoided however they will challenge each other in their own language. So group work needs to be thought through.
    Also their knowing there will be follow up will be very important so that they can be seen to implement any skills or knowledge you may be developing.
    Hope this is of help
    Neil Donnelly

  4. Overcome language difficulties with expansive body language!
    There are some great tips above which I’d wholly agree on. I would add that it’s often worth pushing for a professional interpreter, even if most people have, or say they have, good English. Your British English may sound very strange and unfamiliar to someone used only to speaking and hearing international or a local variety of English (such as in India or Nigeria). An interpreter will ensure that the group gets a full and properly nuanced understanding of what you are saying and, just as importantly, you get to understand the comments and questions of the participants – and, indeed, their conversations amongst each other. If you don’t have this back channel working effectively it can be very difficult to know that you are pitching at the right level and participants are really grasping what you’re saying. People everywhere tend to have excessive respect for international trainers and don’t want to show themselves, their employers or their colleagues up by admitting ignorance or asking ‘silly’ questions. Where people also have very closed body language, as observed above, you can be left fumbling in the dark.

    Where an interpreter translates chunks at a time (as opposed to simultaneously), people with good command of English get two bites of the cherry, and you the trainer get a bit of extra thinking and observation time while the interpreter is translating. I appreciate this a lot!

    In my experience groups all over the world are happy to take part in interactive exercises, group work, presentations and role plays, even if they’re used to ‘ex cathedra’ training. Just as in the UK, they need to feel comfortable in order to get involved fully, and as the jump from what they’re used to to what you’re now asking them to do is quite large, they do need lots of reassurance, comforting and especially motivation. Big body language, enthusiastic facial gestures, happy atmosphere, lots of movement within the group (breaking up safe/resistant pairings) and laughter work pretty much everywhere. They also underline the fact that you’re bringing new approaches to help them find their own new ways of working, rather than coming from afar with tablets of stone and imposing new ways of working upon them.

    They are probably expecting a rather stern man in a pinstrip suit and a bowler hat. You will be able to give them a pleasant surprise!

    Have fun


    Kevin Burden

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