La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

Introduction of the ELP within Swiss Post

Zelda McKillop

Une grande entreprise nationale suisse, donc pluri-lingue, qui travaille avec l’Europe et le monde entier, est un lieu privilégié pour l’emploi du PEL.
La Poste, qui offre une formation interne en langue (avec un matériel d’enseignement ad hoc pour les besoins spécifiques et variés de ses différents secteurs), a opté pour une utilisation élargie de PEL: les recruteurs et les formateurs sont formés au système du Portfolio, les besoins en langues des différentes équipes sont évalués selon les niveaux A1-C2.
La sensation de l’auteure, qui reconnaît que l’introduction du PEL à la Poste a été un peu lente, est qu’il est très utile dans une société multi-culturelle. (réd.)

When people learn that I am responsible for language training at the Swiss Post, I am frequently asked why the Post needs English as well as the other national languages. By nature, a postal service is not only a national organisation, but also an extremely international one. Although French is still the official language of World Postal Organisations, English has become the work language. All Posts must work together to make sure that mail arrives all over the world and most negotiations and conferences take place in English. Clearly, operating in such a multi-cultural country as Switzerland, the national languages are also of extreme importance to the smooth operating of Swiss Post.
This brings me to the subject of the language training programme within Swiss Post. As a countrywide business we are, of course, confronted with the pleasures and perils of three of the national languages and English in our everyday business. In the last few years, this has become a bigger problem due to the implementation of the equal opportunities policy for men and women and also for language minorities. The result of this has been the introduction of ‘mixed teams’ on projects ( a mix of French, German and Italian speakers plus more female representation), with the rule that everyone attending meetings has the right to speak their own language. This rule also applies to written communication. It is clear that German speakers are obliged to use ‘High’ German in meetings, but we still have found no solution to the problem of asides between colleagues in Swiss German and its use during breaks. The non Swiss German speakers are still left feeling excluded.
The Swiss Post operates its own language training service centre, which has around 30 trainers for French, German, Italian and English and offers Business courses, often with specialist material relating to Posts. One of the reasons that language training remains in-house, is that there is no material for Post specific needs on the market. Because we have so many businesses under the same roof, we need to be very flexible and diverse in our training and material. To give you an idea of the variety of our courses, here are a few titles: Tourist Language for Post Bus Drivers, Communicating at the Post Office Counter, Marketing Stamps at International Stamp Fairs, Explaining Post Finance Products, International Postal Negotiations and many more.
We could perhaps play the Beatles song ‘The long and winding road’ as the background to the introduction, this year, of the Language Portfolio within the Swiss Post. The portfolio arrived on my desk mysteriously around 3 years ago, was quickly looked at and shelved due to pressure of work. It re-appeared at various stages during the next 2 years with questions from the people responsible for apprentice recruitment and language trainers asking for further information on this mysterious object.
Finally, Rolf Schaerer was contacted and asked to come along to the Post to fill us in on what exactly the portfolio was and what its application could be within the Post. Rolf passed on his enthusiasm for the product which, clearly, has an important place in any large company.
Firstly, it was realised that more and more new employees would be arriving at the Post with the Portfolio, which is now being introduced throughout the school system. Our recruitment staff will need to be able to understand the content and rating system of the Portfolio. [...]

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