The United States is a land of diversity. In 2003 nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born. The 2000 Census found that nearly 18 percent of the population over age 5 speaks a language other than English at home. And, according to Pew Research, “With more than 37 million speakers, Spanish is by far the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. today among people ages 5 and older. It is also one of the fastest-growing, with the number of speakers up 233% since 1980.”
That language gap offers both challenges and opportunities to business owners. In 2015, there were 26.3 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force, comprising 16.7 percent of the total. Yet a survey by The Conference Board, a nonprofit business research organization, found that most companies do not offer English Language Learning (ELL) classes, even though many of those companies report that they employ English-deficient employees.
Time, cost and logistics are some of the reasons companies have hesitated in the past to provide ELL instruction to their immigrant employees, but those challenges seem small compared to the benefits that will accrue from employee fluency–and the hazards of not taking action.
The benefits of ELL Instruction for employees
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the work-related death rate for foreign-born Hispanic workers is 6 per 100,000–significantly higher than the rate for American-born Hispanics, blacks and whites, which was less than 4 per 100,000. While Hispanics tend to hold more high-risk jobs than other racial groups, researchers say that language and literacy barriers also may be factors in the higher death rate.
Some companies rely on bilingual supervisors to bridge the communication gap, but interpretation can be time-consuming, and the potential for misunderstandings remains. Besides, when only some of a company’s employees can communicate with each other, it can feel as if there are two workforces instead of one company working toward the same goals.
When companies provide ELL instruction for their employees, on the other hand, their investment pays off long-term in safety and efficiency. The companies benefit in other ways, too, as morale and employee retention both improve. We all need to feel as if we “belong,” and bridging a language gap makes great strides in this direction. It should come as no surprise that employees feel more loyal to a company that invests in their future.
Foreign language instruction creates a unified workforce
Some companies take language learning a step further and offer foreign-language classes to their English-speaking employees. Not only do they learn to communicate in a second language, but also the challenge of learning a new language makes the English-speaking employees more understanding and supportive of the ELL learners.
Employees who speak a foreign language can help a business reach out to the entire community. More than 22 percent of people who live in the Northeast were born outside the U.S. That translates into more than one in five potential clients and customers. It just makes sense to maximize your customer base by making it easier for people to use your services and buy your goods.
While the immigrant population in the U.S. speaks dozens of languages, Spanish is the most common. That means that simply by learning Spanish, a business owner and his or her employees can reach a large percentage of their non-English-speaking potential customers.
The ELL and foreign-language classes offered by schools, churches and community organizations can be good, affordable options. Many however, find that employees are too tired after the workday to attend evening classes regularly. In addition, they sometimes feel intimidated in the classroom setting.
Bringing the language instruction to your business site makes it easy and convenient for employees to attend classes. Learning together in a company-sponsored setting also encourages language learners to practice their new skills with each other and gives them the courage to use the new language in the workplace.
ELL Services for Delaware Businesses
If you recognize a language barrier in your company, your employees may benefit from English Language Learning (ELL) training. Are your employees hindered by limited language skills? If so, they could be making errors due to simple communication problems. Miscommunication can result in potentially disastrous safety mistakes and financial miscalculations. In addition, when employees can’t communicate, their valuable ideas are not brought to the attention of the management. When your employee doesn’t speak English, your company’s ability to promote from within is severely limited. English language instruction (speaking, reading, writing, and listening) can help.
Along with ELL instruction, Back to Basics offers accent reduction coaching. The ability to speak clearly, and not only read and comprehend English, is crucial in today’s competitive workplace. For any employee whose job description includes face-to-face contact with customers or involves making presentations, this instruction is extremely beneficial.
Back to Basics Learning Dynamics is the undisputed leader in 1-on-1 tutoring in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania for over 60 subjects for children and adults, including 1-on-1 SAT/ACT/Praxis Prep, as well as translating and interpreting in 21 languages, homebound services, RTI support, and psycho-educational testing. For more information about Back to Basics’ educational services, please call us at 302-594-0754.
Back to Basics operates a unique Department of Education-approved 1-on-1 K-12 Private School in Wilmington, Delaware. For more information about Delaware’s only Department of Education approved 1-on-1 private school, please call us at 302-594-0685.