I literally just started working here and they evaluated my level of English with an oral examination, and the teacher said the next step was to take a written quiz, which she would use to sort of "categorize me" and place me in one of her classes.

I don't remember being told whether this was compulsory or not, but I really really don't want to take English lessons, for a number of reasons:

  1. I studied English during my entire childhood, I'd hate having to study it again.

  2. I've taken and passed several exams with good grades. I told our teacher, but she didn't know the specific exam I took (jeez..)

  3. (Most important reason) Taking classes will mean I have to make up for the lost time (1 or 2 hours per week). I work 9am to 6pm and have a 1hr 30' commute.

The only argument against not taking classes is that while I think my written English is good, my oral English is a bit rusty. Oral English is important because of the daily standups with the remote team, but I honestly believe that taking classes wouldn't improve this; I just need to practice.

Now, I don't know how to or even if I should ask whether these classes are mandatory. I don't want to give the impression that I don't care to improve (I do) but I loathe the idea of staying after hours to make up for the time.

Also, if I ask someone, should it be to HR or to the teacher?

I am also afraid that this will escalate to the top-level managers (it's a small company) and that my refusal would create a negative impression right from the start.

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    As a QA who has worked with countless remote team members, team members who had recently relocated to the US, and team members who had been here a while but never felt it was important to fully develop their mastery of the language, PLEASE, take the classes or find a different line of work. The job is already hard enough when you aren't flushing extreme amounts of time trying to get over a language barrier. Your employer has determined that you need to work on your English. You need to work on your English. – user2989297 Oct 21 '15 at 23:20
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    Who requested that you take these lessons, HR or your manager? You can always ask that these lessons and associated travel time be part of your paid time rather than personal time. – Myles Oct 21 '15 at 23:22
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    @anonymous But you were told you need to work on your English. The exact words may not have been said, but you were tested, categorized, and placed in the "take English classes" category. Take the classes. – user2989297 Oct 21 '15 at 23:45
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    If the company is paying for it and adjusting your workload, how does reason #3 still stand? – JB King Oct 21 '15 at 23:51
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    Have you told them you aren't willing to work the overtime but would be okay with taking the lessons if they get rid of that part? It seems the only thing that makes you not want this is that it will cut into your personal time. (Which is perfectly reasonable) – Erik Oct 22 '15 at 5:16

You are much more likely to get constructive feedback from English lessons than you are as part of a daily stand up. If you intend to continue working with remote teams in English speaking countries, good verbal communication skills in English will be critical for your long term success. If the company will pay for these lessons, they may well be worth the 1 or 2 hours you need to make up.

  • Hi, thanks for your answer. Can you please see my post again? I edited to include my working hours. Thanks! – anonymous Oct 21 '15 at 22:56
  • @anonymous Give your long day, I think it's up to you as to whether you see this period as an investment in the future of your career or whether you see it as a sign that you should try to find something a little closer to home, literally and figuratively. – Eric Oct 22 '15 at 2:22

If it's covered by company time, and you have been categorised as needing English lessons for your oral skills, then you really don't have much of an argument you can put up. You already acknowledged yourself that your spoken English is "rusty". Self-assessments are usually on the optimistic side, so you probably need to get some practice back in.

The final point is that you are needing to talk to remote team members in your daily stand up. Your spoken language skills are critical to ensure this process is effective.

So what can you do?

Well, the best way to handle this is to attend the lessons, and demonstrate really quickly that your English skills have improved to the point that they would no longer consider that you need lessons. Prove them wrong, don't argue against it when you really have no argument that can be used to get out of doing this.

You're going to waste a lot more energy trying to fight it than to just attend the minimum number of lessons you need to chip the rust off your oral English skills and get on with your career.

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