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Talent in 2 Languages Can Boost Your Career Value

By Deborah Willoughby, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser

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When Spanish-speaking people come into Montgomery County, Ala.'s Probate Office to renew their car tags, many ask for Christie Vazquez.


     "They feel more comfortable with people who speak their language," said Vazquez, a clerk who is fluent in Spanish and is studying at Auburn University Montgomery to be a teacher of English as a second language.


     Vazquez often is called on to help communicate with Spanish-speaking customers throughout the probate department. Medical offices have asked her for help on occasion, too, illustrating the point that people who speak another language are in demand in the workplace.


     In a tough job market, it's smart to make yourself more valuable to your employer. As the country becomes more diverse, businesses are responding to a greater number of people, both employees and customers, who don't speak English.


     Learning another language may not be the easiest career-development move, but it may be among the most useful.


     "Folks who are bilingual are going to be much more employable than those who speak just one language," said Walt Hines, who spent 30 years in the Air Force, including stints in Spain and Latin America, and holds a doctorate in educational administration. He teaches introductory Spanish at a Montgomery, Ala., technical college.


     It's a laudable goal to try to become fluent in another language, but even a few classes can teach people enough to be helpful in the workplace. Hines goes into businesses to acquaint people with the Spanish language, giving them enough information to pronounce words correctly and to greet Spanish-speaking employees and customers.


     "One of the things that we addressed in a course at Sylvest Farms was how to write instructional signs in Spanish, such as, 'When entering this area, wear your earplugs.' The folks at Sylvest Farms learned how to pronounce the words, how to accent the words. They process chickens out there, and they needed to know what to call the different parts of the chicken. The course was tailored for their particular line of work," Hines said.


     Jim Jones, director of human resources at Sylvest Farms, said Spanish-language training "certainly helps on the job. But from a human resources standpoint, it means you can say a few greetings to people who speak very little English or no English at all. They just light up like a Christmas tree when you speak to them in their native language."

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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