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What Kind of Bilingual Training Do You Need?


At first glance, you might think that designing bilingual training is simple. You have a workforce that speaks both English and another language, so you make sure your training materials are offered in two languages.

But the fact is that if you are a training director at your company, there are several kinds of bilingual training you should know about. Each tries to accomplish a different goal, and each requires a different kind of training design. Here’s a quick overview . . .

Bilingual Training Type 1: OSHA-Mandated Safety Training for Spanish-Speaking Workers

If your business requires workers to comply with OSHA-mandated standards for job safety and some of your workers speak primarily Spanish, it is your company’s responsibility to offer them Spanish-language training. Another way of saying this is that if OSHA compliance inspectors visit your company and find violations, you can’t defend yourself by saying that you believed you only had to provide safety training in English. To learn more about OSHA-required training, CLICK HERE.  

Bilingual Training Type 2: Training for Workers Who Will Use Two Languages on the Job

This is required if you’re training employees who will have to speak two languages – Spanish and English or French and English, etc. – in order to perform their jobs. These workers could be customer-service representatives, call center personnel, retail salespeople and all other employees who need to be fluent in two languages. Designing training programs for these functionally bilingual employees requires a thorough assessment of the demands of the job, the development of a working job-related vocabulary of terms to be used when performing the job, and more.

Bilingual Training Type 3: Technical Training for Employees Who Will Continue to Speak their First Languages on the Job

You need this kind of training if you have technical skills to teach but do not require employees to speak English extensively on the job. If you’re training native Spanish or French-speaking employees to assemble products or pick orders in your warehouse, for example, your priority is to create excellent training materials that teach the right skills in the language they understand.  As you can see, this kind of training will look and function differently from the Type 2 training that we described above.

Bilingual Training Type 4: Bilingual Training Designed to Teach Employees to Perform their Jobs Primarily in English

This type of training teaches native speakers of foreign languages to speak English with your customers. For example, you are hiring a number of healthcare workers from the Caribbean who speak Creole French and would like them to be able to speak English with your clients and patients. One focus of this kind of training is developing a working vocabulary of English terms and phrases that they will need to use when doing their jobs.

Bilingual Training Type 5: Bilingual Food Service Training

This training teaches bilingual food service workers the specific – and often complex – skills related to the safe preparation and handling of food products. If you need this kind of training for employees who speak English and Spanish, be sure to investigate Tortal Training’s Out of the Box Training Solution for Hospitality and Food Service Training.

How to Determine what Languages to Offer Training In

In what languages do you need to offer your training?

You might be thinking, “The answer to that question is obvious . . . we need to be concerned with offering training in English and Spanish because those are the two most prevalent languages used in the United States today, right?”

That could be. But the fact is, you might need to think about other languages too, because your business might be facing issues like these . . .

  • Your training will be offered in a part of the United States where a number of your workers speak Creole (a Caribbean language that is basically a variant of French) and in parts of Canada where employees speak Canadian French, which is much different from both Creole and “classic” Parisian French. Do you need to write or translate several versions of your training materials for employees in those groups?
  • You are thinking that you need to offer training in Spanish because you have a large Hispanic workforce. Yet it is also true that a growing number of your employees are Brazilian-born and speak Portuguese. Portuguese and Spanish are completely different languages. Do you need to think about offering training in Portuguese too?
  • What level of fluency do your employees need to have in English? Product installers and service people might only need to be able to understand English-speaking customers, for example. But if you are training salespeople who will work on your retail selling floor, they also need to speak English with a high level of fluency.
  • You need training that will be delivered to employees on their mobile phones in Asia. But what languages and dialects do they speak?

You need to ask questions like those as you plan your training, but they spring from several underlying issues:

  • Who exactly are you training . . . what are their native languages?
  • What languages do they need to speak . . . and with level of expertise?
  • What exactly do you need them to do on the job . . . and what level of fluency do they need to do it?

 How to Create Engaging Training Materials in Multiple Languages

n the surface of things, it would seem to be easy to translate training materials from one language to another, and to simply start using them. However, using a professional training development company that has experience in developing and delivering training in the languages you need is the best way to avoid mistakes and get your training up and running without misunderstandings and mishaps. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Every language has linguistic and cultural nuances. If your translators are not aware of them and simply translate your materials, the result could be training that is funny, amateurish or even offensive to the employees you are training.
  • The games you have developed and use in your English-language training might be extremely difficult to translate into another language; a more cost-effective choice could be to replace them with regular text, quizzes or training that is delivered in some simpler format.
  • The people and settings depicted in the illustrations you are using in your English-language training could seem inappropriate and even offensive to people who are not from the United States. You need to look at all course-related materials objectively and carefully.

To Learn More about Tortal’s Bilingual and Multi-Lingual Training Solutions . . .

If you need one of the types of bilingual training described in today’s post – of if you need something different – contact Tortal Training to discuss your training objectives and needs. Call Tortal Training at (704) 323-8953 today.

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