By undertaking language training, expatriates are
demonstrating their interest in the host location, and attempts to speak in the
local language are typically positively received. The challenge with language
training however is that it takes longer than other types of cross-cultural
training. Kaufmann (2015) identified that it takes 480 hours to learn
“basic fluency in the easy languages” and up to 720 hours for
As the UK expatriates are working in the hospitality
industry, they are likely to be interacting with non-English speakers daily. In
the Middle East the most widely spoken language is Arabic, hence it would be valuable
for the expatriates to learn basic Arabic to enable them to engage in
interactions. Arabic however is a difficult language to learn. It is classed as
a Category 4 language on a four-category classification system used by the US
government to identify language difficulty, with Category 4 being the most
difficult language for native English speakers to learn (Dierdorff and Surface,
2008:728). In addition, there are additional difficulties with learning Arabic
including that the expatriates are going to encounter different Arabic dialects
and, although Arabic is the prominent language, there are also other languages
used in the region including Persian and Turkish. Hence, even though they may
be successful in learning basic Arabic, they will still encounter situations
where they will not have the language skills necessary.
Should the expatriates be provided with basic Arabic language
training, it is best for them to be at a level where they feel confident to use
their skills, as Ellington et al. (2015:46) found that “post-training
language skill” was a “significant predictor” of skill
maintenance. The reason for this correlation they believe is that those who
have a higher skill level following the training are in a better position to
apply their learning, therefore helping to maintain their skill for longer.
Expatriates who develop their skills further will experience additional
benefits such as improved interactions, improved performance, and reduced risk of
error or misinterpretation. Although careful consideration needs to be paid to
how much language training the expatriates should be provided with, it is in
the organisation’s interest to provide language training as it will help to
increase the number of effective interactions with customers, leading to
increased customer satisfaction. Language training can continue during the
assignment to maintain and continuously improve the expatriate’s language
skills. If made available online, it has additional benefits in that
expatriates can undertake flexibly on their own time.
Experiential training is simply learning through experience.
Unlike cultural awareness training and didactic training which provide
information and build knowledge, experiential training aims to build the expatriates
capacity to engage in interactions through developing their interpersonal and
cognitive skills. Littrell and Salas (2005:320) note that organisations should
identify the “mental activities that are needed to successfully perform a
given task” and focus their training on developing the skills needed to
undertake those activities.
Experiential training may include visiting the location of
the assignment, undertaking a trial assignment, or undertaking a simulated
experience. Visiting the location in advance provides the opportunity for the
expatriate to fully experience the location before their assignment, such an
experience cannot be matched. However, expatriation is “already very
costly due to the high cost of sending and maintaining expatriates in the
host country”, Zainol and Aziz (2010:215) citing (Hechanova et al., 2003),
hence sending the expatriates on a visit to the host location or trail
assignment may not be feasible. Simulated experiences provide a much more cost-effective
Simulated experiences can be set up to demonstrate to the
expatriate what they can expect, and provide the individual with the
opportunity to respond to a situation and receive feedback on their response.
If it’s not possible to set up simulated experience, written case studies and
critical incident exercises can also be used for learning purposes. The
expatriates can be provided with the scenarios and asked to determine how they
would respond. These learning activities will develop the expatriates’
interpersonal and cognitive ability and prepare them for responding to similar
scenarios in future.
As we can see, experiential training can be made available in
many different forms, each requiring a different level of time and effort.
Organisations should take into consideration the specification of the
assignment when deciding what experiential training would be most suitable.
Cognitive-behaviour modification training aims to modify the
behaviour an expatriate demonstrates in response to stimuli. It “seeks to
assist the expatriate in developing the habitual behaviors desired in the host
culture” Littrell and Salas (2005:311). Cognitive-behaviour modification
training is of particular importance for any UK expatriates in the Middle East
where some behaviours which would typical in the UK would be deemed totally
unacceptable. Konanahalli et al. (2012:46) note for example how both male and
female expatriates in Islamic regions have to “observe caution” in
relation to public displays of affection and the region’s modest dress code.
They also indicate that “instances reveal that being unaware of the
protocols in the Arab world could have devastating consequences for the
expatriate and his/her family” (Konanahalli et al, 2012:47).
Some behaviours may not attract harsh consequences but may
still cause offence to or insult host country nationals, and hence should be
avoided. For the UK expatriates, examples of such behaviours which should be
modified include that men, when meeting other men formally, should shake hands
but when meeting Middle Eastern women, they should not unless the woman extends
her hand first. Similarly, female UK expatriates should wait for Middle Eastern
men to initiate handshakes. Additionally, when eating expatriates should always
wash their hands beforehand and should never use their left hand to eat,
especially if eating directly with their hands.
Above are just a few examples of behaviours which may require
modification. As with all CCT, the specific content of cognitive-behaviour
modification training should be tailored to the specific assignment.
Cognitive-behaviour modification training is important as it reduces the risk of
damaged relationships, reputation and/or market share.