Lowe’s quest to find the right kind of training for their managers brought them to Concordia Language Villages.
The dining room at El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village, was lively with banter in Spanish as food was passed around the tables.
It was an amazing change from just a few days earlier when the group, all management staff from Lowe’s, the home improvement company, was anxious to be at Concordia Language Villages for a Spanish immersion experience specifically designed for them.
The program was initiated by Lowe’s regional distribution center executives five years ago.
Lowe’s quest to find the right kind of training for their managers started in Central America. The company, however, quickly discovered it needed something in the states and it couldn’t be just language classes. That’s when the organization approached Concordia Language Villages.
Now approximately 120 Lowe’s staff members participate in the immersion experience annually.
“It’s an ideal setup for accelerated learning because you are there 24/7,” says Martin Graefe, Concordia Language Villages’ senior director. “It’s a full day from when you get up to when you go to bed. In government language, it is iso-immersion.”
And that’s a phrase Graefe has heard a lot as Concordia Language Villages has done similar programming with special forces and civil affairs units of the military.
Graefe says that while the military has one of the best language training programs in the country, they have used the Villages program as a culminating piece. During one program at the French Language Village, a civil affairs team used the culturally authentic Cameroonian hut for a simulation of the visits they would need to do in tribal communities.
“The government has gained increased understanding that language and cultural competencies are critical skills and one of the most important tools contributing to the success of a soldier,” Graefe says.
Christine Schulze, vice president for Concordia Language Villages, says there is room for others to apply this learning model. She says representatives of the college and the Villages have had conversations with agribusiness companies, as well as regional medical systems, about immersion learning for employees.