Market Your ESL/EFL Program in Multiple Languages to Build Trust with Parents

By Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton

English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL or ESL) programs benefit from marketing their programs in a variety of languages, in particular the languages spoken in the countries where their students come from. The reason is simple: marketing to people in their native language will help you build trust with them.

While there is an argument to be made for using the target language and immersing students in English, students aren’t always the ones paying tuition. By reaching out to the parents and families in a language they understand, you are more likely to put them at ease. This feeling of ease may be just the thing that tips them in favour of your school over another one.

Put yourself in the position of a parent who wants to send their son or daughter to a faraway land to learn English. Chances are, it will be one of their child’s first experiences living away from home and away from the family. The decision to send a child – even a teenager or young adult – is one that many parents take seriously.

Imagine this: Your daughter wants to go away and study a foreign language…maybe Chinese or French or some other language that you don’t speak. She tells you that she has found two possible schools and wants you to have a look at their websites. She sends the links to you at the office. During your coffee break, you check out the first school’s site. All the information is written in English. You find out about the school, the teachers who work there, the homestay accommodations available and the program she will be taking.

You move on to the second site. All the same information is there (you think?) but it is written only in the language your daughter wants to learn. You surf around, look at the pictures and try to get back to the home page again. But you don’t speak the language the website is in, so the best you can do is get a general idea from the photos and site design.

After you’ve looked at both sites, where do you want to send your daughter?

The fact of the matter is that both schools may have excellent programs, but if students (and their parents) can read about it in their own language you will build an unspoken relationship of trust with them. It’s both perception and perspective. You trust what you know. And as the saying goes, “People do business with people they trust.”

For English as a Second or Foreign Language programs that recruit international students, translating your website (or at least major points of it) into the languages of your major markets gives you a distinct advantage over your monolingual counterparts.

Written by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton for October 2010
Author of 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program, Dr. Sarah Eaton is an expert on the management and marketing of language schools. She coaches school directors on how to manage more effectively and market more powerfully. Visit her website at or her blog at

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