Good customer service " bilingually

As more companies need employees who can speak at least a little Spanish, Truckee Meadows Community College is offering shorter, more general and less expensive courses.

Until recently, TMCC conducted customized Spanish language training workshops on company premises.

Now it offers versions in a classroom setting as well.

TMCC saw the need for a classroom version after it received queries from individuals and companies who wanted shorter classes, where they could learn just enough Spanish to communicate with their customers and colleagues.

One of the courses, for instance is a sevenweek "Spanish for Customer Service" class that will run Oct.

25 through Dec.

6 at TMCC's Meadowood Center.

"Spanish for Customer Service" comes on the heels of a course titled "Workplace Spanish," which is under way now.

The customer-service class could either be seen as a continuation class ofWorkplace Spanish or could be taken by itself, says Anastasia Sefchik, a program manager of TMCC's Workforce Development and Continuing Education.

Employers and workers look at learning to communicate with Spanish speakers as having an impact in the workplace.

For English speakers in offices, especially managers and supervisors, the ability to communicate goes a long way in expressing their appreciation of their Spanish-speaking employees and colleagues.And that adds to workplace efficiency, says Sefchik.

For customer driven companies, she adds, it's also the same feeling of appreciation that statement of "we care" which makes business sense.

Agrees Pamela Williard, human resources manager at Great Basin Federal Credit Union, which had opted for the customized training version for both "Workplace Spanish" and "Spanish for Customer Service."The customized version has been great, she says, though it costs about $3,000 for 30 hours.

With Hispanic population increasing by the day in northern Nevada, there is hardly a business, other than tiny mom-and-pop shops, that do not have Hispanic colleagues or customers,Williard says.

With 30 percent of Great Basin's members being Hispanic, she says, it was a strategic marketing decision for all its English-only employees to learn some basic Spanish, such as "Can you please take your seat," and "Someone will be with you shortly." The classes, not meant to make the learners fluent in Spanish,will allow communication in the most basic way.And for that, the course takes care of the basics such as alphabets, numbers, colors, family members, formal titles, time,months and days of the week.

Also, students learn the staffing positions, safety features and basic objects used in the workplace.

Basic greetings and phrases, answering calls and even giving simple directions in Spanish such as filling a form are all a part of the course.

The students learn to practice the correct pronunciation and use the terms and phrases in sentences.

They also learn the adequate responses and role-play with other students.

All along the learners are also made aware of Hispanic/Latino culture, contrasting it with the American culture.

For instance, Sefchick says, the Latino culture values cooperation while the Anglo culture values competition.

The differences are seen even in education.While in the Anglo cultural individual achievement is emphasized, in Latino culture it is the achievement of the team as a whole.

"So far I have picked up a few words and phrases, how to greet my co-workers or to give instructions," says Isis Vann, an administrative assistant at John Ascuaga's Nuggets Casino Resort,who is one of the 18 students taking the first course,Workplace Spanish."But I have learned a lot about the culture and it was really important to know that too."

(Registration for "Spanish for Customer Service" is open until Oct.


The course costs $184.

For details, call 829-9010.)


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