It’s important to understand that first generation Hispanic immigrants came to this country to seek a better life for themselves as well as for their families. As with other immigrants, they were motivated by the promise of a brighter future through this country’s long standing ability to provide employment. The lure of earning a much higher income than they could possibly earn in their home country was certainly one of the great incentives that led them to attempt to participate in the great American Dream factory.
There are over fifty million individuals of Hispanic origin living in the United States today. They number about nineteen million employees. Many have been able to achieve success beyond their wildest dreams. Some have progressed from beyond basic hand-to-mouth existence to lavish material status.
In the workplace, they have built a favorable reputation. Many supervisors and team leaders will readily admit that the Hispanic immigrant work ethic and willingness to work hard is commendable. Hispanics have a term for this: “darle ganas” or “giving it your all.”
About half of the working Hispanic population have limited English speaking skills. They work primarily in food production, manufacturing and hospitality industries. It’s not unusual to find Hispanic employees who have been in this country for ten or twenty years and still be deficient in the English language.
Perhaps first generation, Hispanic employees are not motivated to learn to speak English because they feel that in the workplace, there is safety in numbers. However, that belief leads to a false sense of security. By not making the effort to speak English in the workplace, they are doing themselves more harm than good. They are eliminating themselves from promotion opportunities and career advancement opportunities.
It’s interesting to note some of the excuses they give for not taking on the challenge of learning to speak English. They say things like: “It’s too late for me to learn” or “it’s too hard” as well as many other reasons. Yet there are numerous examples of Hispanic immigrants who have tackled this challenge head on and have succeeded in vastly improving their English communication skills. They have gone on to become supervisors and team leaders. They have proven to be a valuable asset to their organizations because now, as bilingual employees, they are able to communicate and participate in both, the management and production areas.
It’s time for first generation, Hispanic employees to realize just how important it is to become part of the dominant language in the workplace. Learning to speak English will undoubtedly yield many positive results. The ability to become involved in the communication process will not only enhance the quality of life in the workplace but in their everyday living in America as well.
Isaac Botbol is the Founder and CEO of Training for Hispanics in the Workplace: http://www.trainingforhispanics.com
He is a Bilingual Facilitator with over 20 years experience designing and delivering workshops and webinars that are specifically suited to the workplace learning needs of First Generation, non-English fluent Hispanics in the workplace. He has recently created a language learning program called “Workplace English”