Ranking as one of Nearshore’s top contenders for English language proficiency, the Dominican Republic remains consistently strong thanks to an ongoing exposure to American culture; however, there is still room for improvement in the educational system, which both the government and local vendors need to address.
“In my experience of the last eight years in the country, the level of English has always been exceptional, especially when comparing it to other Nearshore islands,” said Chris Anderson, Executive Vice President at Vixicom, a call center provider with almost 1,000 agents in the Dominican Republic, all serving US clients.
“At the same time, the availability of English speakers in the capital, Santo Domingo, is diminishing as other players move in and scoop up the resources, but the talent pool here is still sufficient for our needs.”
Culture & Exposure
The Dominican Republic is driven primarily by tourism, so English speakers in built up areas are constantly interacting with native speakers, allowing them to improve organically through continued daily practice.
But there’s also a deeper history with the United States, with both governments always having a good relationship with one another, so plenty of DR families have first-hand experience with America.
“With American television also being available across the country, this has helped the Dominican Republic develop a deep cultural affinity with the States,” said Anderson. “I have employees who primarily learnt English through watching US TV. While they might not be the best from a grammatical standpoint, they have a great handle on slang and dialect, and are also accent-neutral.”
While English – and multiple other languages – is taught in private schools, public schools are still falling behind, particularly outside of densely populated areas, so the government still has work to do in order to change that, especially as the price of private tutorship grows each year.
“The issue is that the education system is quite poor and lacks the resources to teach English at a decent level, especially in rural areas and especially when compared to private schools, which have an abundance of resources available to them,” said Bryan Linck, Vice President of Outreach360, a volunteer organization that supports disadvantaged communities in DR through education.
“The government does mandate English as a school subject, but mainly in the built-up areas. Kids in rural areas have masses of potential, but schools struggle to find qualified English teachers and teaching materials to give them the opportunities they need to expand on that potential.”
Outreach360 has itself been supplementing the lack of resources with volunteers since 1995, as well as establishing its own centers for training people how to teach or work in schools. “I meet kids, even in rural areas, who speak really well,” said Linck. “These kids are motivated and willing to work at it, showing up every day and taking all opportunities to interact with natives.”
When it comes to universities, there are apparently still problems with academic English programs. According to Professor Juan Valdez, Director of the Dominican Association of English Teachers (DR-TESOL), “the [university] curriculum [for English] is described, but not executed. There is also unemployment here because there is no adequate [English] training”, he told local news daily, Diaro Libre.
Valdez stressed that while the Ministry of Education had invested hundreds of millions into English over the years, the results of the subsequent programs have been appalling due to the lack of teacher appreciation and the absence of an effective “21st century” approach. He also pointed out that bilingualism in the country has been reserved for less than 10% of the school population, so only the richest have achieved it.
Ultimately, while those in the Dominican Republic who can speak English have an exceptional handle on the language, the country still has a large pool of remaining students and potential call center agents to focus on, so local players shouldn’t sit on their laurels. If a high-quality English language curriculum can be universally introduced to public schools, the industry could have even more talent to choose from.
Check out other countries in this Nearshore English Evolution series by clicking here. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic, so please join the conversation in the comments below.