Standardising English in Sri Lanka’s booming hospitality industry

20 April 2015 08:34 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Communication in English is vital for the smooth running of a business and also for the personal growth of many professionals. 
Poor communication skills create obstacles which can have negative repercussions for companies. Proficiency in English is therefore gradually becoming a mandatory requirement for any professional working in a global business environment.
The English language requirement for each job role is different. Working with a key tourism and hospitality provider, the British Council has embarked on the journey of understanding this requirement through benchmarking.Benchmarking produces a clear picture of what level of English language skills is actually needed in a particular job.
In the hospitality industry, for instance, there could be cleaning staff that very seldom need to use English, security staff at the reception of buildings that could need to be basic users of English to meet and greet or give simple information and direction. The requirements for waiters and room boys would be different in order to be able to hold a simple conversation with a customer. There are also managerial roles, which involve interaction with customers and suppliers on a regular basis, requiring independent use of the English language.
This benchmarking exercise assesses the level of English required for each job role in each skill (reading, writing, speaking, listening) using the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)
The CEFR is the result of over 20 years of research. It is a global framework used to teach, assess and measure competency in the English language.
The framework assesses language proficiency at six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. For example, a person who is rated as A1 would be able to carry out very basic conversations like greetings or asking and giving a name. In comparison, an individual with a level of C2 would be able to use the language proficiently even in complex situations.  

Commenting on the need for benchmarking, Michael Bryson, Professional Training Centre Manager, British Council, said, “It is high time decision-makers (lifted the haze and) talked the same language about employee language levels and related operational needs. The frustrating wooliness that has for too long characterised debates on language-training needs (in public and private industry) will now be replaced with a more universal and accurately calibrated system. At long last, we are all reading off the same hymn sheet! The dovetailing of CEFR labels and our thorough benchmarking process (successfully pioneered in this region by the British Council’s Professional Training Centre) using state-of-the-art assessment (APTIS), has been a positive step.  As a training provider, I appreciate that this facilitates more informed decisions; providing  the necessary framework to engage all stakeholders in a forward-looking and much more directed dialogue on how to plug the region’s skills deficit – arguably, from a social, economic and political perspective, one of the biggest challenges that faces us today.
For example, the varying levels of English required for a waiter in the hospitality sector can be clearly defined.
Speaking on the importance of benchmarking for Sri Lanka, Keith Davies, Country Director for British Council, said, “While professions may vary, the need to be proficient in English is a basic skill for any global worker. Employers expect their workforce to possess excellent communication skills apart from the knowledge and expertise required in their respective technical field. The British Council has been in Sri Lanka for over 60 years and English is at the heart of what we do. Through setting standards for industries, we are preparing the workforce for a better future.” 
English is known to be the most wide spread language used globally and has also been cited as the major language of international business, used by some 1.75 billion people worldwide. The tourism and hospitality sector can benefit from leveraging on English language through a more work ready employee and position Sri Lanka to take on the potential of the global tourist industry – valued at USD 7 trillion.
For more information on how benchmarking, assessment and English language development solutions can support your organisation or industry, contact the British Council on +94 (0) 11 4521521or visit
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. 
We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policymakers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.
We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. 
A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.  For more information, please visit:

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