For Immediate Release 1/16/08
Wilmington, Delaware — Supervisors can sometimes feel as if they and their employees are not speaking the same language. But what happens when that truly is the case—when otherwise excellent employees have a weak grasp of English?
As more immigrants enter the U.S. workforce, more companies are dealing with a language gap. Some businesses are finding that offering employees onsite classes in English as a Second Language has numerous benefits. Not only do language skills improve, making on-the-job communication easier, but also morale goes up and so does employee retention.
“I’ve noticed a huge difference in attitude since we started providing the English classes. My employees see that I care enough to help them advance,” said Bill Duncan, owner of White Oak Landscape Management in Greenville, Delaware.
Duncan employs 15 laborers in the March-to-November landscaping season, most of them Mexican men in the U.S. on temporary work visas. They return to work for White Oak year after year, so Duncan knows he is making an investment in his company’s future as well.
Duncan said he had grown frustrated when he could not communicate directly with some of his employees, and staff meetings took twice as long as necessary because everything had to be translated. “For years I had been encouraging the men to learn English. Finally I realized that they were not going to learn unless they had formal instruction. But after a long, hard day, they were too tired to go back out at night to attend a class.” So Duncan brought the teacher to them.
Throughout the fall, an ESL instructor from Wilmington, Del.-based Back to Basics Learning, Inc., came to the White Oak offices twice a week to lead a 90-minute class. The ESL classes will resume when the men return to work in March, Duncan said.
Spanish-speaking employees at Burris Logistics in Elkton, Md., will have the opportunity to take free, onsite English classes beginning in January, according to Lauren Weyant, Human Resources Specialist. Burris Logistics, headquartered in Milford, Del., operates a network of frozen food warehousing and distribution systems in the eastern United States. The Elkton facility employs 270 people.
Weyant estimates that 70 percent of the 180 employees at Burris’s Elkton warehouse speak Spanish as their first language. All of them are full-time, permanent employees. Some are fluent in English, but others do not speak it at all. Although a Spanish-speaking supervisor is present at Burris during every shift, day-to-day operations would improve if everyone could communicate more easily, Weyant said.
To start off the process, Weyant arranged for English-speaking managers and supervisors to take a basic Spanish course onsite through Back to Basics, which they finished in November.
Like White Oak, Burris elected to bring the classes to its employees to make it more convenient for them. Learning together in a company-sponsored setting also encourages the English learners to practice their new language skills with each other and with their English-speaking co-workers.
“I would highly recommend onsite language classes to anybody who thinks it would benefit their company,” Weyant says. “Working with Back to Basics has been wonderful. The instructors are terrific, and everything has run so smoothly.”
Since 1985, Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., has provided students of all ages in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania with one-on-one tutoring and small group instruction in more than 50 subjects, including 20 languages. Contact Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. (www.backtobasicslearning.com) at
Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. is President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., an area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring and test prep for children and adults, and translating/interpreting since 1985. In addition, Back to Basics is a Department of Education approved 1-on-1 Private School for K-12, as well as a Business and Trade School for ages 16+.
Email Beverly at email@example.com, call her at (302)594-0754 or visit on the web at www.backtobasicslearning.com or www.backtobasicsprivateschool.com.
Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. is located on 6 Stone Hill Road, Wilmington.
Beverly Stewart inducted to Hall of Fame of Delaware Women