Have you ever had difficulty communicating with an employee or co-worker because of language differences? Even when English is a common language, sometimes communication challenges arise. So much more are the challenges when an employee has not yet mastered English. While it may be to the immigrant's advantage to learn English, it may also be to the employer's advantage to learn Spanish! When we stop to consider that many immigrants may not have a high school education, they work long hours, and are adjusting to a new culture; it may actually be easier and more efficient for college-educated Americans to learn the industry-specific Spanish they need to communicate with the Spanish-speaking market or workplace.
Many of you reading this article probably have at least a college education. Have you ever tried to learn a second language? Imagine the challenges immigrants face as they try to adjust to a new country, work many hours, and then go to English as a Second Language school, wondering what a noun and a verb is.
Because Hispanics now represent 12 million people in California, it may be to your benefit to learn Spanish. Depending on your profession, you may be missing out on close to 50% of the market share by not knowing Spanish. If you are not able to communicate with this population, you may be missing out on huge profits. It would be faster and easier for you to learn what you need to know to communicate with the Hispanic market in your industry rather than to expect an immigrant from a Spanish-speaking country to be able to communicate his or her needs in every industry with which they interface.
So how can you begin to learn to communicate in Spanish, or any other language for that matter? Enroll in a program designed to teach you what you need to know to conduct business in your industry. Learn the fundamentals; don't get bogged down with grammatical rules.
Many professional Americans are held back from speaking a language other than English because they are consumed with using perfectly correct grammar at the expense of actually communicating their message. Well, there is another way to approach this. Have you ever listened to somebody speak English who speaks it as a second or third language? Do you hone in on all the grammatical errors they make when speaking, or do you try to understand what they are saying?
Break free from what your high school or college professors told you. The sky will not fall if you make a masculine word feminine or if you conjugate a verb incorrectly. Learn key phrases in your target language like, "Slower please; I'm still learning." Listen for key words and then form your questions around what you did understand. Such as, "What did you say about x?" "We should ship the product when?" "And then do what?" This shows the speaker that you are getting part of the message and he or she can just repeat clearly the parts you didn't understand.
If you need to brush up on your language skills or you need to start from the beginning, find a language school that caters to the professional. You do not want to sit in a class conjugating verbs for hours. After all, you are not getting graded at the end - but you do need to communicate with your target market. Find a school that teaches the specifics you need in your industry. Some software programs start at the beginning. They may teach, "The ball is bouncing." "This is a boy." How many hours do you need to sift through to be able to say, "Bring me the ¾" nails." Or, "tell me where it hurts and when it is the worst." If you find a school that focuses on teaching you exactly what you need to know for your market, you can be speaking with Hispanics (or other population groups) in minimal time and can focus on increasing your bottom line because you have now opened yourself up to 12 million more people in the market!