Language Committee Policy Statement
Guides and trainees on courses whose first language is English must apply to take a language proficiency test in any other languages in which they aspire to guide. Equally, those whose first language is not English must have their English tested if they wish to guide in English regardless of circumstances. There are no automatic exemptions for persons who have lived in the UK for a number of years, have attended courses and/or have been awarded diplomas and degrees in the UK and have followed the tourist guide course and taken the examination in English. Considerable effort is made to help and encourage non-English-first-language candidates on guide training courses. Examiners make considerable allowance for candidates who are performing in English rather than in their first language, but this in no way equates with ipso facto granting them qualification to guide in English.
The current system of language testing is very much geared to the real needs of professional guiding. The Institute Language Committee provides for regular reviews of the tests, consultation of all examiners and verification of examining standards. Tests are usually arranged annually in London and elsewhere when there is significant demand, and thus there is no long waiting list.
A guide must be able to hold the attention of a group for as much as several full days' guiding, according to level, on a moving vehicle, on foot, in museums, art galleries, churches, archaeological sites, etc. The subject areas covered comprise history, art history, archaeology, politics, religion, flora and fauna, agriculture, music, legal system, literature, gastronomy, geography, geology and many other specialist fields. Information conveyed to visitors must be instantly comprehensible to the audience.
From the outset the basic criteria developed for language testing were also based on client/tour operator feedback regarding guiding in various languages. Some visitors stated that their enjoyment and appreciation were considerably marred by having to strain to understand tour content through strong accent, grammatical mistakes, strange use of words and intonation.
The tourism industry and the guiding profession in particular have always been characterised by the beneficial and welcome presence of people of many nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. Language testing policies have no discrimination based upon race or nationality. What determines where or in what language a person guides is solely a matter of qualification.