EDUCATORS, EMPLOYERS, parents and the media in Hong Kong have regularly highlighted the advantages of learning a second or even a third language. With the effects of globalisation and the ever closer tourism and business links with the mainland, there is now a broader appreciation of the role multilingual individuals can play in an internationally focused society. Helping to fuel the demand for language training have been government initiatives such as the Workplace English Campaign and the Continuing Education Fund. These provide financial assistance for approved courses, including language programmes, and have both prompted the launch of new language schools and seen existing ones expand. As a result, qualified teachers of English, Putonghua, Japanese and French are in great demand. 'Our recruitment strategies reflect the growing demand for quality language programmes,' said Christian Chasset, Hong Kong Institute of Languages director. When the institute opened more than 20 years ago, the only programmes it offered were to study French. However, in the past five years English and Putonghua have been added and, more recently, Japanese. Most of the institute's native English-speaking teachers are recruited from Britain, Canada and Australia, while the French government is promoting the training of language teachers to teach French overseas. Specialists in Putonghua and Japanese are generally found in Hong Kong. Normally, teachers deliver 40-hour courses that are divided into sessions for different class sizes. These may include one-to-one learning and smaller classes of four or five people. The courses available cover all levels, from beginner to advanced. Students will vary in age from primary level to mature adult. Mr Chasset said that, in addition to working in the classroom, members of faculty are required to offer tailor-made programmes in the workplace for businesses and service companies. Teachers are initially offered a one-year contract with the option of extending it. 'Many of our employees renew their contracts because they enjoy the Hong Kong lifestyle and the opportunity to explore the region,' he said. Most language teachers work for privately run institutes. The alternative of setting up as a self-employed private tutor can be more lucrative, but usually requires considerable experience of the market and means finding suitable premises from which to work. Teachers who already live in Hong Kong and have the necessary qualifications have an advantage in this respect. They are likely to be familiar with the culture, which can be of particular benefit when helping students to express themselves. Apart from academic qualifications, teachers require a certain amount of patience and a good understanding of the initial difficulties learners may face. 'Some prefer to teach adults, while others deal more effectively with younger people. Wherever possible we try to allow teachers to work in the areas they prefer,' Mr Chasset said. Persuading shy or less confident students to speak up in class can be a challenge. Those with the ability to make their classes fun get the best results and find the job more rewarding. The other secret is to encourage students to make full use of what they have already learned, however limited that might be. Dorothy Fok, Wall Street Institute (WSI) human resources manager, agreed. She also said working as an English-language teacher at WSI was a passport to a wealth of career opportunities. 'The diversity found at the Wall Street Institute means that teachers interact with groups of students whose first language is Cantonese as well as with students from a mix of other countries. This practical experience equips someone to perform competently in any teaching environment around the world,' Ms Fok said. Native English teachers are recruited from overseas and locally, provided they have the necessary qualifications and display a positive attitude. Frankie Chan, WSI's service manager, said their teachers took responsibility for classes and encouraged students to put into practice everything they learned in the classroom. This would include organising social events, such as an introduction to western cuisine or Latin dancing, in order to encourage students to interact with each other and, just as importantly, with native-language speakers. WSI believes that teachers must not only have high professional standards, but also display a passion for their profession. Their staff regularly undertake in-house training to help them stay in touch with the latest ideas and methodologies. 'The experience of interacting with people from diverse cultural backgrounds leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime and has relevance beyond the world of language teaching,' Mr Chan said. The skills teachers acquire - such as learning to be an effective listener, expressing oneself clearly, addressing specific learning needs, public speaking and managing people - are invaluable. They can also be put to good use in many other fields, such as international business and human resources.