After two years living in Buenos Aires, I came home with what I thought to be a mastery of the language. I minored in Spanish, and I felt comfortable analyzing 18th century Spanish literature. I could write research papers comparing the origins of regional dialects of Spain, and understand different accents from across South America.
Fast forward to a month ago. Working as a technical trainer at Entrata and delivering training on a complex enterprise software … in Spanish. If you ever feel like you know a language, try explaining the technical jargon of your particular field in that language. I promise that you will quickly learn that there is a difference in what you studied, and what you actually need to say. I promise it will be humbling.
I did, out of necessity, learn a couple of principles that helped me through my training and can be applied just as completely to training in any language; even your native language. Apply these principles and you’ll be a capo trainer too.
- Use their language
This may seem obvious. “Of course I would conduct a Spanish training in Spanish,” you may say. What I mean though is that you want to use language that your trainees will understand. For example, much of the training I would normally do revolves around a software “Dashboard.” When looking up the Spanish word for Dashboard, Google will return Salpicadero or Tablero de instrumentos. Both of which returned only blank stares when I conducted the training. I knew that I wanted the trainees to use the Dashboard every day and to return to it frequently. I knew that the Dashboard is the main page after logging into the software, so I took to calling it la página principal (the main page). This was easily understood and adopted by the trainees.
If you don’t know what they might call a specific page or a particular process, just ask! They’ll tell you what they would call it and you can adopt the verbage. You can speak their language. Don’t over-think the translation. Listen to how your trainees speak. Connect using the same language, then use their language to take them from what they know to what you are teaching.
- Be Animated
Spanish is a very animated language. If you don’t believe me, watch a Spanish soap opera. The people use their hands, they exaggerate phrases, and they clearly show emotion (albeit too much sometimes) when they converse.
When training, YOU are the visual. Use vocal inflection. Use your hands. Move around. Be interesting.
Being a trainee is hard. Think back to the last time you had to sit through a training. What were you thinking about? If you’re like most, you were probably checking your email and thinking of emergencies that were happening while you were tied up in training. Those in your class will be struggling to focus on learning if you are not interesting. Harness your inner Spanish soap opera star. Use your hands to explain. Exaggerate everything. Be a visual for your training. When possible, try to segment ideas and transition between them with gestures.
- Let The Class Teach Themselves
One of the biggest epiphany moments I had while living in Argentina, was that even though the people couldn’t always communicate with me, they were every bit as smart (probably more so). They had their own complex thoughts and ideas. They were people. It is important to always remember this. Sometimes we feel like those we’re training just aren’t smart enough to understand. They’re too old, they’re too stuck in what they are currently doing, and they will never understand technology.
This is wrong! Every person will pick up on different pieces of your training. They will have their own insights based on their experience and responsibilities. As a trainer, you’ll want to hone in on these. After showing a process or a principle, ask a class member to explain how that practice will affect their job. Ask what that principle teaches about the software. Ask how what you’ve shown will ultimately make their job easier. Most importantly, ask them to explain in their own words.
This goes back to the first principle of speaking their language. If your peers can explain what they have learned in their own language, odds are they are explaining it in your language too. Let class members answer questions that their peers have. Let class members explain processes. Your job as a trainer is to empower learning, not to have all the answers.
Sometimes as trainers we fall into our comfort zone and need to shake things up a bit. While I had to be humbled and learn these principles the hard way, you can take them and apply them to all training regardless of the language. If you think about it, you’re always translating from the language of your understanding to the language of your learner.