their limited English comprehension.
Some housekeepers would avoid guests
because they feared they wouldn’t understand a request.
“They would put their head down
and pretend to be busy when a guest
walked by. That’s not what we wanted,”
she says. “We wanted people, even with
their limits, who would interact.”
She empathized because she grew up
watching the struggles of her own par-
ents, who were Cuban immigrants. As
a child, she translated for them.
“I was their liaison between their
world and the world we live in today,”
she recalls. “As I became older, it was
sad to see my parents as vulnerable people and not as my heroes, my protectors.”
Castro sought help from the Los Angeles Workforce Development Board,
which provided a $100,000 grant to
the Los Angeles Hospitality Training
Academy, a nonproft arm of the Unite
Here Local 11 labor union, to provide onsite English classes and other
needed training for hotel staf.
After just two weeks of instruction,
Castro noticed a big diference in the
“They would see me in the hallway
and would use what they were learning
to talk to me,” she says. “They would
sit in their lunch hour and practice for
the next class.”
She understands the immigrants’
struggle, how hard they work, leaving
little time for themselves. The classes
were “one way we could take care of
them for taking care of us. It was just
a dream I had that became a reality,”
says Castro, who now is vice president
of HR for Hilton Los Angeles/Univer-
sal City. She is planning to ofer En-
glish classes there as well.
“The biggest reward you’re going to
receive in your career is to give the gift
of education to your employees,” she
If English classes aren’t feasible, there
are other ways you can help surmount
the language barrier. For day-to-day
communication, managers often rely
on other employees to translate for
those who speak little or no English. Or
supervisors get by with hand gestures
and Google translations. Some executives hire managers who are bilingual,
while other companies provide foreign
language training for their supervisors
in locations where the majority of employees don’t speak English.
Languages Spoken Among U.S. Immigrants
Note: Languages spoken by at least 2 percent of the immigrant population are shown.
Hindi includes related languages such as Urdu and Bengali.
Source: Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2015 American Community Survey.
English only 16%
Several Phoenix-area employers
pair new workers who speak limited
English with a co-worker who can
help orient them, says Niki Ramirez,
SHRM-CP, founder of HRAnswers.org.
“Language is what connects us and
makes us visible to one another. It produces a conduit to build relationships,”
says Ramirez, who is fuent in English
“Whether finding a document in
‘The biggest reward you’re going to
their native language or fnding a bi-
lingual co-worker to support them,
it really goes a long way to creating
a civil and humane workplace,” she
says. It tells the workers, “Hey, I see
you, and your contribution is import-
ant to us.”
Ramirez translates company hand-
receive in your career is to give the gift of
education to your employees.’