Deer Valley lodging going bilingual
July 19, 2006
Deer Valley Lodging is offering its employees the opportunity to either learn English or Spanish from a local teacher for free.
Like many companies throughout America, employees of Deer Valley Lodging often find a communications barrier keeping them from reaching their full potential. In response to what Deer Valley Lodging’s Steve Perkins calls an "immediate need," the company hired Anna Williams to teach both English and Spanish classes once a week.
Employees even get time off to take the classes, which happen in the middle of the day.
"I kind of got it pushed through because I oversee a large housekeeping department and English is mandatory to some degree but we’ve kind of bent the rules because of the employment pool recently," Perkins said. "There are two English classes and a lot of the management personnel are taking the Spanish classes, myself included."
Williams, who has a heritage of teaching English as a second language, has been teaching in Park City for three years.
"She does ESL for the school district and does classes there," Perkins said. "Those classes are something like $15 for a full year of classes, so obviously she has a passion for teaching the language. But they’re not easy. There’s a fair amount of homework associated as well."
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Perkins said the Spanish classes provide a wonderful opportunity for non-Spanish speakers to be able to learn a language that is almost a necessity to know.
"It’s the equivalent to a Spanish 101 class," he said. "We have a bunch of vocabulary words on flashcards, verbs and nouns, simple phrases, pronunciation, and names as well, which I find very helpful."
"We do it because a lot of our employees are Hispanic and we’ll have better workers as a result. There is a definite communication barrier. I see a desire to learn, especially when I meet them halfway."
Perkins said he has been able to use his newfound skills on a daily basis. He tries to speak to the Hispanic workers in Spanish and they try to speak to him in English.
"In a way we’re learning together," he said. "I think they’re very aware of the people taking the Spanish class and they appreciate that. It improves the camaraderie greatly, and I actually think we have an improved performance from the individuals in their day-to-day work."
Williams said she also sees the progress of her students. She grew up in the Unites States, but was raised in a bilingual home. Already knowing both languages, she followed her mom’s footsteps into her occupation.
"My mom is a teacher and she taught bilingual education in Sante Fe, N.M., and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree," Williams said. "I decided to go the secondary route and teach high school and adult bilingual education. I teach for Park City Community Education and have been teaching ESL for Park City for three years."
She said teaching languages to employees at a business is different from a school setting, because there are different goals.
"The goal here is not academic, but they’re going to get academic gains by taking the course," she said. "The goal is to help them assimilate into an English-speaking society. Language is power and I’m just trying to provide my students with power."
But Williams is also very adamant that her students retain their native language and heritage. Although the students are very excited for the opportunity, she tells them not to let go of Spanish and the fact that they can speak two languages.
But she couldn’t be more proud of her students, and of Deer Valley Lodging.
"I think that it’s wonderful," she said. "It’s amazing that the administrators at Deer Valley are willing to take the challenge as well. It’s not just, ‘You try to learn English,’ but it’s, ‘You try to learn English and we’ll try to learn Spanish and we’ll meet in the middle.’"
She also offers a similar program at the Summit Watch Marriott, but Williams said she hopes more businesses follow suit.
"It builds communication," she said. "It says loud and clear that we’re trying and we ready to meet you half way. I’m very proud of the fact that Deer Valley has taken that step."