The Benefits of Learning Workplace Spanish at Your Company

By: Ed Rosheim

Want a proven morale booster at your company? Have your supervisors learn to thank their workers for a job well done in the workers’ native language. Not just a simple “thank you,” but a few phrases addressing the specific task and how it was done.
How about giving your managers the communication tools to explain procedures and safety rules and to know they are being understood? What better way to improve safety and to retain happy, productive workers? Everyone benefits. But, who has time to implement these changes?
Let’s face it, most employers are burdened with a time crunch, to say the least. Too busy to send their supervisors or employees out to lengthy and expensive language courses off-site. On the other hand, most managers and supervisors are aware of a communication gap they can’t afford to ignore.
Each population arrives not just speaking different languages, but with an amazing diversity of cultural history and practices, all of which influence how these workers will approach their new jobs. Of course this often results in confusion and miscommunication. Fortunately, however, there are solutions addressing the communication gaps involving the growing number of workers with limited-English proficiency (LEP) skills.
In fact, I believe you can take what might be perceived as a huge problem and transform it into a valuable resource. That resource is group of workers who will stay at their jobs and can potentially work their way up in the organization as their skills and language proficiency increase.


When I first started teaching Workplace Spanish to English-speaking corporate supervisors, I used the methods provided to me, traditional language instruction emphasizing grammar and writing skills. It became clear to me that these programs weren’t cost-effective or efficient. They didn’t do much to help either the workers or managers to solve the problems that arose in their workplaces without a long-term commitment that most people didn’t have resources or time to invest.
I found that teaching managers basic phrases in “Survival Spanish” (or other languages) that were specific to their needs not only helped to get the jobs done, but resulted in workers who felt more respected and motivated. For the LEP workers, learning job-specific English only not allowed them to improve their productivity, but gave them the hope for future advancement. In all cases, relationships improved and there was less stress in the workplace.
I also found the need to develop a series of industry-specific bilingual training tools. With input from industry experts our company began to create pocket-sized survival language booklets containing the phrase or request in the language along with the phonetics for easy pronunciation.
My advice, then, as a professional language trainer is this:
First, take stock of your needs.
• What language barriers exist at your company? What cultural groups are you dealing with?
• What are your job-specific communication goals? What are your specific problem areas?
If you are looking to improve communications with your LEP workers, seek instruction that addresses the needs of your workplace. There are a growing number of organizations and companies that specialize in tailoring language and cultural instruction to the specific needs of the work environment. Look for resources that can construct an industry-specific program and, more importantly, the needs of your company.
With the appropriate choice of training program, managers can learn enough language and cultural diversity tips in a one-day seminar to get them started in bridging the communication gaps at their club. Depending on your needs, programs can involve a day, a few days or a few weeks. Remember this: you don’t have to spend months and years of time and expense to communicate better with your Spanish (or other LEP) workers.
Successful communication has always been the key to good management. Now, with an ever increasing need to connect with workers from other cultures, the need is even greater for both managers and employees to educate themselves in each others’ ways of acting and speaking. Still, the rewards are potentially great if the methods that both parties use to educate themselves are appropriate. Success doesn’t necessarily take a great deal of time, it takes the right training.

If your company needs to improve productivity, wants to retain great employees and values diversity, Workplace Languages, LLC has language solutions to improve your bottom line. Workplace Languages provides an easy, effective and immediate way to close the communication gap at your company.

Human Resources
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