1.2. Commercial project development
2.2. Objectives addressed by the project
2.3. Project targets
2.5. Target groups
The target groups consist of guesthouse owners, both operating on the accomodation market, as well as would-be-guest house owners who are planning their career in tourism. Additionally, employees of guest houses and other private lodgings could make use of the project results to the benefit of their language competence. In some regions in Poland a more widespread form of relatively cheap holiday accommodation is provided by so-called eco farm houses whose owners and employees also require improving their linguistic skills. Indirectly the project answers the needs of hotel sector staff, students of hotel industry and tourism, seasonal workers employees in the tourism sector as well as the needs of job seekers wishing to raise their qualifications by improving the knowledge of languages. Thus the project results could be successfully used by job centres or SME incubators.
This project addresses the needs of SME operating in the tourism sector, where students should be taught soft skills in a foreign language, and practise learning structures and communication strategies in the context of customer service. The goal is to teach actors of the tourism sector to promote their services, facilities and local cultural diversity in less popular languages, such as Polish and Czech.
Statistics collected by the Polish institute of tourism show an increase in visitors from the Czech Republic of over 20%, Germany (37.7%), and neighbouring countries in 2004. On the other hand, figures indicate that barely 21.6% of individual accommodation available in Poland for tourists was actually occupied in 2002. The growing popularity of family tourism across Europe (to the detriment of organised package tours) noticed by WTO in 2003 shows the lack of adequate promotion of more accessible tourist facilities by guest-house owners in Central Europe. We believe the latter need better language & communication competence to run more profitable business ventures.
Be my guest consists in designing teacher's and student's methodology books, student's self-study conversation books, correspondence packages in German, Polish, and Czech languages for users in project-partner countries, i.e. Poland, the Czech republic, Germany.
The Polish and Czech language editions for instance are perceived as an incentive to help guest-house owners and customer service providers in Germany to attract a blooming Polish - or Czech-speaking market: they could indeed diversify their activities - from satisfying consumer needs of border-resident customers purchasing competitive, high added-value services in neighbouring regions - to wider business opportunities such as catering for family tourism.
Since most commercial and / or educational offers from western publishers address expectancies of new EU learners in an anonymous way, teachers at the 'Global' Language Centre (Ltd) located in warsaw, Poland, have had to satisfy the semantic, conversational as well as psycholinguistic needs of language learners from both public & private entities for over a decade on a case by case basis, often involving the designing of tailored materials.
Preliminary talks with a Germany-based training centre have unveiled shared interests in teaching fleximode and new ways of thinking through languages, such as general business communication skills and management conflict. Another pillar of Be my guest is a training centre located in the Czech Republic, which focuses on courtesy language. All these skills are more than relevant to the needs of the tourism sector eager to conquer new markets. Localisation of books for learners (eg. Czech-resident user-oriented conversations book in Polish) enables promotion of local (eg. Czech) tourist attraction in Polish, and ensure wider dissemination not only of materials, but also methods.
Indeed, instead of simply undertaking translating we believe it is more pertinent to make both the books & methods usable by transnational VET so that they may in turn edit or plainly re-write the topics depending on local needs. Support materials include Linux live cds, interactive films, as well as e-learning modules. The project is seen as a scalable framework to validate an open-source database of vocational & linguistic training methods & ICT material (stimulating conversation e-books).
The end-state of Be my guest is to contribute to European strategies in linguistic and vocational training by responding in compliance with the principles of subsidiarity: i.e. providing the local VET with cost-effective, European-wide, referenced tools to satisfy the timely needs of non-viable target groups (from a publisher's marketing as well as public administration viewpoint), and ensure that cultural and linguistic disparities do not impede communication.
4. Justification of the proposal
4.1. Target groups and target sectors
'Be My Guest' concerns on the one hand computer-illiterate, little-educated employees in the tourism sector, such as seasonal workers. Learning a given language is seamlessly associated with raising the relevant communication skills and quality of customer services. On the other hand enterpreneurs (guest-house owners and small hotel managers) are expected to undertake business ventures to promote tourism thanks to new skills acquired in the field of cross-cultural business communication and promotion of their cultural diversity in a foreign language.
The materials created during the life of the project could successfully be used by customers of guest house owners as a survival kit when travelling to Poland or the Czech Republic. The materials foster better communication, hence understanding, between customers and service providers.
VET centres should take advantage of European-wide compatible, scalable and free of charge usable template materials and methods to respond to subsidiary needs in training. Even the smallest target groups of teachers could be taught how to produce a dedicated language course book for their own environment which would not otherwise prove to be a viable investment for a commercial publisher.
4.2. Identified needs
The exchange of experiences with the partner organizations have revealed an acute need for qualification raising on the part of tourism SME emloyees dealing with accommodation provision. Numerous SME enterprises offering accommodation services have emerged in Western and Eastern European countries. This phenomenon is common for Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany as accommodation services are seen as a new area of economic activity that helps families earn a living. Such services are either offered by small and family-run guest houses or by ecological farm houses.
The needs of Central and Eastern European learners of foreign languages are recurrent: they may express the concepts of their Western fellows, but have no terms to describe their own specific background. NATO has identified a similar common flaw and found provision for such measures: interoperability.
Statistics for Poland and the Czech Republic state in unison that there is a need to promote the knowledge of the German language. Approx. 70% of all Germans at the age of 14 years (these are 49 million Germans p.a.) are used to travelling abroad for five days and more.
On the other hand, the wealthy middle class from such countries as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland is a challenging target group for the German SME hotels. According to the study conducted by GUS ( Chief Statistics Office) in cooperation with Instytut Turystyki (the Institute of Tourism) Germany and the Czech Republic and Slovakia are most frequently visited countries by Polish tourists. In 2003 2.6 million of Polish tourists (out of 7.2) visited Germany (Instytut Turystyki). Therefore guest house owners should establish grounds for fostering better communication.
4.3. Project specific aims
We plan to design training materials & methods which guarantee interoperability, as well as test and validate a scalable framework of language learning and communication schemes for VET centres.
A specific aim of the project is also to foster an environnement for the project to grow and become self-sufficient (shared use of EU referenced books and tools for developing further the existing stimulating conversation materials database in a financially viable manner).
The project strives to improve the quality of, and access to, continuing vocational and language training at both teacher and learner levels (comprehensive testing by teachers of different backgrounds and specialities, exhaustive documentation, blended flexi-mode, conflict management, Conversations Tailored to your Needs - Stimulating Conversation Books, and NLP approach, innovative Virtual Rehearsing-DVDs, more effective dissemination thanks to the Linux live CD format).
Traditional language courses teach vocabulary, grammar, phrases, pronunciation, (...), but they do not include compensation techniques to counterbalance hyper-activity and/or fatigue (positive thinking, relative perspectives, simulations, NLP anchors), nor physical techniques to neutralise excessive emotional stance and anguish (relaxation, low-key acting, anticipation of situations...).
Another goal of the project consists in helping service providers to promote tourism within their region. This should also build self-confidence in inexperienced groups of professional learners in their skills to communicate in a foreign language.
The aim is to widen the group of beneficiaries of language courses, for example to the elder struck by the generation gap within Central and Eastern Europe, by associating targeted aid for understanding western and/or foreign civilities (psychological disparities & behaviours) of guests (i.e. handshake, tips, consumer habits...) 'Be My Guest' intends to preserve the cultural diversity of a given region in spite of portraying its features in a foreign language where poor translation and misinterpretations are currently common.
The promotion of social dialogue in vocational training is reflected by the non-discriminative approach to satisfy disparate linguistic needs of seemingly unprofitable niches. EU intervention is legitimised as it compensates the lack of interest of market forces in nationally or regionally limited needs to retain a given difference in craft endangered by globalisation trends.
4.4. Development of practices to facilitate access to training for people most at a disadvantage in the labour market
Whether it is present in conventional VET or employment centres, or even SME incubators, the 'Be My guest' solution should be chiefly a community-dependent project reminiscent of world-wide-web, peer-to-peer, shared assets.
Provision for the disabled is made possible thanks to an open distance learning scheme integrated into an e-learning module. Remote areas not equipped with satisfactory internet connection are covered by means of CD-roms.
The project involves developing skills in writing correspondence, thus enabling people of limited mobility to increase their employment opportunities.
The Be My Guest project also targets people with little or no education. Indeed, it means to help the older, unemployed age group to catalyse their unfocused energy (creative tools to discard routine behaviour, naming and use of concentration triggers, templates for the paragraphing of thoughts); courses should also provide memorisation techniques thanks to NLP; participation of groups of professionally inexperienced learners in the project should build self-confidence in one's skills to communicate in a foreign language.
The project's impact would limit long-term unemployment by improving employability of the local workforce. Examples provided by tourism language competence and pilot projects should encourage local authorities to promote similar vocational training.
Access to training for people most at disadvantage is affordable thanks to the use of open source software functioning on old, inexpensive PC networks as well as the latest available individual workstations without prior need to interfere with existing operating systems (use of a bootable GNU Linux Debian flavoured live CD).
4.5. Original contributions & approaches involved
Popularisation of less wide-spread languages in vocational training (such as Polish and Czech) should narrow the generation gap due to computer and English based vocational courses. Indeed, Western know-how is usually disseminated by means not avalaible to selected target groups.
Description of various civilities profiles should help end-users to understand and respond more appropriately to customer behaviours, such as irritation, fury or disappointment. Language learners are invited to explore new alternative idiomatic sentences and stances depending on the situation and their own appraisal. The use of interactive reading & video materials based on multiple choices as well as various scenario endings should bring about a genuine linguistic awareness.
Innovation contributed by this proposal involves teachers' professional skills to influence the approach of beneficiaries to language learning (time-effective means to reach adequate concentration for intensive language learning, building self-confidence, conducting a discussion based on arguments and convincing narrative patterns...) to the point where the actual knowledge of the language itself becomes irrelevant to communication efficiency.
The project also seeks to embody EU principles of subsidiarity by accompanying national vocational training systems in their task to satisfy learners. CTN - Conversations Tailored to your Needs - is a method based on rhetorical questions according to maieutics (used by Socrates to reveal the knowledge of his pupils) and helps communicating at beginner levels a concept known already in the native language of students. It is implemented in conjunction with fleximode developed for the maritime IMO-model course 3.17 developed by WTA for the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
The output of this work, whether commissioned by a VET centre, anticipated by the teacher or carried out with the class, results in a Stimulating Conversation Book. Usually, the contents of an SCB correspond to the written record of conversations with students during the lessons thanks to the use of a laptop; students are given short model sentences to be combined into longer sentences or utterances. They reflect linguistic needs and individual interests in a particular tourism topic.
The current project is to supersede the initial response to the lack of conversational materials of particular target groups; firstly by sharing the method and secondly by undertaking co-operation with other VET centres in order to feed the database. Use of open source software with guidelines how to design teaching materials in a repeatable way should encourage the production of similar materials in other less and more popular European languages which will feed the free-of-charge database.
The approach is country-specific and diachronic: for instance a stimulating conversation book for German students at intermediate level includes modules depicting regional tourism opportunities of Germany and Poland in its Polish version, while the Czech language book for Germans will feature a module regarding tourism activities in the Czech Republic. All issues are perceived by contemporary citizens in the light of recent holiday destinations (most topics can be easily less than 2 years old thanks to short lead-time required for publishing electronically).
The use of SCB materials as lines for actors is also considered as a new approach to language learning: the paragraphs are indeed already broken down into individual sentences. Experience in the film industry proves that SCB can make role plays and actors' various interpretations much easier. Short films will present a virtual simulation of a given scene where one of the actors is missing: the student will have to improvise & react to the actors' changing behaviour (intentionally provoked by the teacher).
4.6. Valorisation strategy
Valorisation strategy involves an exhaustive and long-lasting (during project life and beyond) information campaign in order to guarantee diffusion and growth of the database. Some promotional materials via e-mailing (chiefly addressed to SMEs listed at local Chambers of Commerce), (text & video) documentation for VET centres, etc, will be made available as soon as the second stage of the project, i.e. once the method and SCB projects regarding tourism have proven successful. Press releases, presentation at fairs and training conferences are of course among the conventional dissemination actions to be taken along the promotion of sponsors.
Ultimately popularity will depend upon the use of excerpts of glossaries in tour-operators' leaflets promoting a particular cuisine and so-called ready-to-use sentences at tourist information desks, chambers of tourism, town halls & hotel reception desks (at a symbolic price, i.e. costs of space on the page).
4.7. Partnership capacity
Implementation and pertinence of materials in the field of tourism education will be confirmed by partner countries experts; these consultations with experts from university tourism departments as well as hoteliers and other industry representatives are to ensure adequate valorisation. Satisfaction with the book and e-book on the part of tourism professionals will be measured by means of specially designed questionnaires.
In terms of linguistic relevance the materials will be subject to detailed verification by university linguists. Earlier actions undertaken by partners have shown that partner institutions possess sufficient capacity, knowledge and experience in monitoring programme and material designing. The presence of Global Ltd guarantees timely recommendations to be proffered in the course of the project.
5.1. Short and long term impacts
In the short term the project will train the functions indispensable for operating in the tourism sector, such as writing correspondence for promotional purposes and participating in business communication. Significant progress in linguistic skills is less expected than a genuine interest in language learning as a means to become self-employed or more efficient in tourism ventures. 'Be My Guest' stimulates linguistic awareness of social groups with limited access to education and facilitates life-long learning. The understanding that cross-cultural disparities and language competence go together should encourage beneficiaries in their effort to raise the quality of customer services.
In the long run target groups are expected to take relevant exams, but also show professional ability to work in a foreign language. Development of life-long learning schemes and extra-curricular vocational and educational opportunities with VET centres should foster the emergence of local examination standards securing compatibility with EU norms and safeguard the professional and cultural diversity of learners' know-how. Impact is expected to be embodied by the deployment of tested & validated tools at subsidiary levels by local VET centres.
5.1. Integration of project final results
The project's final results will consolidate existent knowledge and practices as well as place confidence in local authorities to find solutions at subsidiary levels.
One should expect a growing number of opportunities for writing more books & support materials as these may be commissioned by local businesses during language courses without fear of covering costs on testing & validation. Training practices will benefit from blended training methods improved during implementation of the Be My Guest project.
5.2. Plans to ensure expected impact
The legacy shall be a multifaceted and multilingual database. Regular meetings in participating countries are scheduled to ensure that experience is shared not only by means of e-documentation and SCB, but also the confrontation of a same issue interpreted differently. Future SCB projects of a given language are expected to rely heavily on feedback and existing materials developed earlier by another country's VET centres.
Expected impact of the project results are guaranteed by the eventually attained financial viability (i.e. return on investment) of VET centres' contribution to supporting testing & validation.
5.3. Transferability of results to other groups, sectors, geographical contexts
Results are seamlessly transferable to other geographical contexts as explained earlier (either the method of materials designing, the teaching method or the materials produced in the course of 'Be My Guest' project). The success of this project should convince local authorities, language and tourism VET training centres to carry out similar initiatives.
Although users of the materials may be quite diverse, the project will transfer the communication abilities from target learners to their environment, and more specifically SME and customers.
Technology transfer of open source production tools and methods are readily available to potential new materials designers.
Samples e-mailing actions will be aimed at professionals of the tourism sector and VET centres. Conferences will consist in both promoting and counselling methods and materials developed under 'Be My Guest'.
6. Partnership & transnational cooperation
6.1. Close partnership among VET centres is expected and concerns:
The role of partners in the partnership will comply with their activity orientation
6.2. Partners' tasks
VET #1 + VET #2
VET #3 (experienced in the requirements on transnational cooperation)
VET #4 (specialising in soft skills)
Other VET centres
6.3. Designing of linguistic components
A group of VET centres (including VET centres mentioned above) should be in charge of designing the following linguistic components:
All partners will be involved in validation:
All partners will be involved in dissemination:
6.4. Stage development meetings
Stage development meetings verify tasks accomplished in accordance with pre-established questionnaires and reports. The promoter is responsible for Centralising materials designed as well as task assignments. These meetings are followed by dissemination conferences (progress monitoring open day meetings) in each country.