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Training 'por favor'

September 19, 2010
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Imagine yourself in a training room filled with excited people who are ready to learn.

They are eager, willing and filled with anticipation to learn the next level of their jobs and livelihoods.

You are ready to begin the process, but when the instructor begins speaking, you cannot understand the language he is using.

You catch a word every now and then.

The instructor speaks quickly, using technical terms that make no sense to you.

He uses examples and local phrases that appear to be gibberish.

The other students are actively engaged and asking questions in a language you are not very familiar with.

Your spirit sags and your excitement wanes.

You can’t wait for training to be over.

You want to ask questions, but are afraid to speak for fear you will be ridiculed or someone will think you are not very bright because you do not fluently speak the language.

You wait for a break and stumble over a simple question, which the instructor asks you to repeat several times.

You feel foolish, beaten, frustrated and completely overwhelmed.
Welcome to the world of training for our non-English-speaking employees.

Barriers between student and instructor
Language differences are only one of the hurdles facing our ESL (English as Second Language) employees.

Cultural differences also cause workplace challenges.

People born in other countries have different cultural values that sometimes clash with our American upbringing.

Many times, non-English speakers are thought to be slower than or not as intelligent as English-speaking employees.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In your company, training program allowances need to be made for non-English speakers.

Translators or translated materials should be used for training purposes, especially safety training.

Verbiage used to communicate in your company should be free of slang terminology when non-English speakers are being trained.

The English language is difficult enough without adding local phrases that may mean different things to different people.

A formal way of communication should be mandatory for all training functions and for all formal training manuals, reports and company policy manuals.

Resources available
If your firm is not large enough to support the different languages your employees speak, the federal government, via OSHA, has a bilingual website geared for helping employees access Spanish-language safety compliance resources.

Whatever the job requires, forward-thinking companies provide the tools for employees to succeed.

That might mean encouraging workers to study English through ESL classes in the community or sponsoring in-house classes, perhaps with the support of local high school or college teachers and professors.

Another idea is to place a new hire, who is unfamiliar with English, with a mentor who speaks the person’s primary language.

A mentor may help him/her understand the rules of the company, and learn the ins-and-outs of the workplace.

This could limit challenges and misunderstandings that could be dangerous in certain instances.

What we should attempt to do is make everyone as comfortable in the training environment as possible.

It can be difficult, but a little creativity can go a long way to fielding a productive workforce that is properly trained and eager to succeed.

Gracias for your time, consideration and attention.

Dane Gregory is the president and CEO of 3-D Corporation, which owns Dr. Clean Consultants, a company that provides technical and management training to companies worldwide. For more information, visit

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