At Godel, the Language Development and Intercultural Communication Division delivers to make the interaction between all our locations as easy and effective as possible and aims to improve cross-cultural communication between employees. Elena Korenko joined Godel in 2007 has always had a keen eye for detail when it comes to both cultural and language barriers and how to overcome them. 

In this episode of The Godel POD, Cameron Watson, Service Delivery Manager and Danielle Tomkins, Event Manager is joined by Elena Korenko, Head of Language Development and Intercultural Communications Division at Godel to talk about how cross-cultures has become the beating heart of Godel and its people.

This is an edited transcript, for more conversations on the latest in tech, subscribe to The Godel POD on PodBean and Spotify. Podcast jingle provided by the Hideout YouthZone.

Podcast transcript

Cameron Watson: Hi everyone, welcome back to The Godel POD. Today we are joined by myself, Cameron, Service Delivery Manager here at Godel and I’m also joined by Danielle. 

Danielle Tompkins: Hi, I’m Danielle and I work in Marketing at Godel. 

Cameron Watson: And our special guest this week is Elena. 

Elena Korenko: Hello I’m Elena, I’m Head of Language Development and Intercultural Communications 

Cameron Watson: Perfect. So Elena, since joining in 2007, how has Godel’s culture grown and developed?  

Elena Korenko: It has grown and developed a lot since 2007. I joined the company as an English teacher in September 2007. Over the years, the company began growing and I couldn’t run the English classes for all the employees myself, so I started interviewing for the English teachers for the new European locations. The Language Development division was created in 2018 and then in 2021 I became Head of Language Development and Intercultural Communication. 

Danielle Tompkins: And how many teachers are in your department? 

Elena Korenko: Right now there are 23 professional Language Teachers at Godel: 14 English / 8 Polish teachers and 1 Lithuanian teacher believe it or not! 

At Godel, huge importance has always been placed on our employees’ ability to understand English in all its forms and I hope I managed to build a strong team of the English teachers who are helping Godelers to communicate with their colleagues in Manchester and with clients around the UK better and more efficiently! Besides, my dream has come true: a native speaker of English, an English teacher from Kent, has recently joined our team! His name is Ben, and Ben is running the English classes for the advanced English level employees, which is fantastic.

The English Teachers Conference at Godel in 2022

Godel care about people a lot, it is people who are Godel’s priority so when the Godel employees started working in Poland, the Polish classes were set up for the employees to help them learn the Polish language and Polish culture so that they could integrate into the new culture quickly and could feel more comfortable in another country. The Lithuanian classes were set up to help those employees who had moved to Lithuania to feel more comfortable with the locals. 

I think relationships improve within the international team when for example our Polish employees see their Belarusian colleagues make an effort to speak their mother tongue in Poland, they do appreciate it a lot. I am really happy when I hear our Belarus employees speaking Polish in our Polish offices. This is the best reward for us all! I would personally love the Godel employees to assimilate into a new culture (Polish / Lithuanian) as quickly as possible and I think our language classes do help a lot.

Cameron Watson: That’s amazing, especially bringing on as you say someone from the UK to be part of that. So I assume over the last couple of years there’s been changes in how teaching has been rolled out, a big one being Covid. What changes happened to teaching during Covid? 

Elena Korenko: Yeah, thank you so much Cameron, a lovely question. Covid has certainly changed the way we work and it made me think once again that adaptability and flexibility are very important skills in today’s fast-changing world. So when the global pandemic started we all had to adapt to the new reality and I organised a quick and effective transition to online training due to the start of remote work implementing modern online tools and started involving the English teachers in online teaching. Now we’ve got both the online and offline classes so that the Godel employees could pick up the format that suits them better. 

Cameron Watson: Amazing, and you mentioned different teaching online and offline, how do you find the best way to engage with each Godeler to get the most out of their sessions? 

Elena Korenko: We use lots of different innovative teaching strategies and methods (gamification; case study; project-based learning) Besides, we use tech and different online platforms to make all the language classes more interactive and less boring (Miro board, Kahoot, Quizlet, Quizziz, Wordwall, etc.). We are all children at heart so love games to help us learn, and we are still learning at the end of the day to improve their language skills. 

As for the English classes, teaching English at Godel is challenging and fascinating at the same time as we do our best to tailor the classes to the specific needs of our employees. We teach not only everyday English, but we also discuss some business-oriented topics that help our employees interact with their UK colleagues more effectively.

English Club Session in the Lodz office

The cultural aspects are also included in our English classes: we teach our employees how to be more polite and less straightforward while communicating with their UK colleagues, how to have small talk and keep the conversation going and how to give some negative feedback without offending anyone, etc. During the classes we use some captivating activities to practice problem-solving, brainstorming and thinking outside the box skills. 

Danielle Tompkins: I agree with what you’re saying, I think it is a lot easier to learn when it’s interactive. So, what are the novelties in your division?  

Elena Korenko: There are some novelties all the time. When I joined Godel, I always tried to organise some extra activities apart from giving the English classes: I would bring my UK/Irish friends over to the office when they were visiting me so that the Godelers could speak with a native speaker of English face to face, or I would organise a movie night in English! Then I inspired some employees to perform a pantomime before Christmas and they loved it so much that it became a fantastic tradition. It was great fun, we had lots of rehearsals, learning lots of new idioms and verbs. 

Our employees gave quite a lot of performances in English: ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Once they even were performing the scene from the play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde.  

I think those performances including the rehearsals in English helped the employees not only to improve their English skills, but also to develop their creativity, increased their imagination, and made them step out of their comfort zone. Everyone was happy: both the performers and the audience! 

Even now, I’m here in Manchester and we’re really grateful to all the Manchester guys for participating in this activity. Because Godel employees can watch these videos in the classes, and the Manchester guys can answer their questions that were asked by Godel employees, I think this is fascinating. It’s thrilling for Godel employees when they see that the Manchester guys have answered that question. It’s entertaining and at the same time beneficial because yeah, they can get different accents, lots of accents. Manchester, Yorkshire, Scottish, it’s so beneficial and I’m grateful to everyone.

Manchester office filming sessions for future English Classes

Another novelty is an English Club for those employees who can’t attend the English classes regularly but who would love to improve their English. I think the concept of the English Club is amazing: any employee, no matter what their level of English is, can join the English Club session to practice English by speaking it in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It helps the employees to overcome any language barriers and to open up. Every time we do different activities, we play various games, sing English songs, organise different competitions in English, go out and speak English, talk about the UK, its culture/customs/traditions… We even had some English Breakfast Sessions in the cafe, which means we could gather together, have breakfast and speak English at the same time. 

I’m grateful to all the English teachers for supporting my idea and concept of the English Club, running the English Club sessions in all the locations and coming up with some new amazing ideas. 

Nowadays, we run not only the online and offline English Club sessions but also the Polish Club Sessions, which is really exciting. I also hope to run a Lithuanian class one day.

Polish Club Session in the Lodz office

One more novelty is The English Crash Course for those employees who would love to improve their Business and everyday English communication skills. The Crash Course has been tailored to the specific needs of our employees and covers such areas as small talk / stand-ups / demos / presentations / interviews / body language / some cultural differences / British humour / some everyday topics. We do 12 sessions a month and our employees feel more confident while communicating with their UK colleagues.  

The employees’ active participation during the English Crash Course and their positive feedback proves once again it was worth designing and running this course: it has been beneficial and interesting for the Godel employees. 

What’s more, every year I organise and run the Godel English Teachers’ Conference. Our English teachers from all the locations gather together to participate in the conference, share their experience and look for new ideas, inspiration and professional development. We always discuss lots of interesting and thought-provoking topics: for example, a flipped approach and how to apply it in the classroom, a suggestopedia method, some ways of using tech effectively in the classroom or the role of motivation in ESL learning, etc. I do my best to enhance the professional expertise of the Godel language teachers and strengthen a culture of continual learning and improvement, so in the future I’d love to run another conference for all the Godel language teachers come together, including English teachers, Polish teachers and Lithuanian teachers – this is my goal. 

Godel’s Polish & English teachers in the Lodz office

Cameron Watson: What would you say in your 15 years is your biggest stand out or favourite moment?  

Elena Korenko: It’s a difficult question. If something works out well, then it’s really rewarding. When I joined Godel one of my students moved to Manchester and she told me all the idioms I taught her are used in Manchester, that’s the best reward when you teach somebody the English language and you see that it is beneficial to see that we’re not teaching some a ‘bookish language’, you teach those idioms that are used in Manchester or the UK and you see that the classes were beneficial, interesting, useful. When I get some feedback with regards of the clients for example, it also makes me happy. I’m really happy to get all the positive feedback and kind words from both the UK and our international teams, which proves once again how important, insightful, and useful the intercultural sessions are. When you see the value, when you see that something is beneficial, when I am on the same wavelength as my team and the language teachers, and I’ve inspired them, they’ve inspired me – it’s the best thing. 

Danielle Tompkins: It must be really rewarding to see the growth of your department and hearing people speaking English really well is great and proves people really enjoy the classes and you’re doing a great job. Over your career have you seen a big change in culture whether that be within Godel or a client culture session? 

Elena Korenko: I’ve always been fascinated by cultural differences and by the fact how much they impact our work, communication and interaction. Culture is a very sensitive topic. Godel is growing in different locations across Europe and being aware of the cultural differences can make a huge difference to communication and relationships within the engagement. 

For example, if one of the developers can make a conscious effort to be more polite and less straightforward, not only will our UK client appreciate the effort, but it will help to build a more positive relationship, which in turn creates a favourable environment for our best, most innovative work to be produced. So I definitely see the differences. 

Cameron Watson: You mentioned the changes and Poland becoming our main delivery location at Godel, has that changed the cross-cultural sessions you run, how has that shifted over the year? 

Elena Korenko: Yes lots of changes, I’ve made changes to the presentation to make it an intercultural presentation about different cultures including UK and Polish. It’s nice to get the language teachers involved in some activities too. For example, when I went to the Lodz and the Wroclaw offices to run some cultural sessions for the Godel employees, I asked some Polish teachers to prepare mini-presentations on some interesting topics like Polish holidays, Polish cuisine and music so that our employees could get some more insights in Polish culture.

Intercultural Session in the Manchester office

I’m going to Vilnius next week and we are going to do the same with the Lithuanians and Lithuanian culture and it’s exciting and fascinating. 

Danielle Tompkins: It’s exciting to see we are growing and expanding. Why are the cross-cultural sessions you run at Godel important for our UK clients and our employees from different locations? 

Elena Korenko: Our teams are becoming more international, more multi-cultural and more multi-national. A mutual understanding is necessary when it comes to language and culture, and I consider it vitally important to help the Godel teams and our clients understand one another better and ultimately work together more effectively. I run cross-cultural and intercultural sessions whereby I outline the key features and elements of each culture as it’s nice to be aware of these differences. For example directness and straightforwardness can be perceived as rudeness although it isn’t rudeness, it’s just another culture, and with that comes cultural differences. 

Cameron Watson: And with that you mention cultural differences in your presentation and High Context/ Low Context Cultures, which of our locations fall into these categories?  

Elena Korenko: High Context/ Low Context Cultures are becoming more popular and leaders are using it more and it’s important to learn about them as we’re all different. In a low-context culture we assume or consider, we have a low level of shared reference points, rules, what people do, roles and responsibilities, what needs to happen next.  We assume we don’t have the same information available to us, or the same relationship, or context – and because we assume we don’t have this shared understanding of something, we believe that good effective, professional communication, is communication that is simple, clear and explicit.   

In a high context culture you place value on reading the room, assessing what is going on by the way it is said, what body language is being used, the use of silence, implying something, and also what is not being said. We could say that the UK is somewhere in the middle and Poland is somewhere in between. The low context communicator may appear rude to the high context communicator. The high context communicator may appear to take too long to communicate and be frustrating to the low context communicator. I think if we all make an effort, it will be easier to understand each other.  

Danielle Tompkins: Yes that’s why client workshops are so important to understand that all cultures are different and do all communicate differently. In an article, you mentioned that the division is like your baby – What are the plans like for the future? 

Elena Korenko: My division is like my baby, because I created it from scratch, and I picked up every single teacher myself. I’m blessed to be working with the Godel language teachers who are on the same wavelength with me. I hope there will be more great challenges, more novelties and more achievements in the future!  

Godel is growing in multiple locations now, so I’m getting more and more excited about future challenges! I’ll continue working on the cultures and the cultural differences as Godel becomes more international and more intercultural. My dream is to run the intercultural session about the different cultures and communication styles between all those cultures we work with, which will help to avoid some painful situations. I am always coming up with new ideas and suggestions. 

Cameron Watson: Amazing, thanks so much for joining us Elena. 

Elena Korenko: Thank you for asking all these great questions. 

[Outro] Cameron Watson: If you like what you hear and would like to know when we’re releasing even more episodes, please just subscribe to the Godel page on PodBean or Spotify