Iowa’s largest grocery chain is encouraging employees in some locations to take a free foreign language course so they can better communicate with the growing number of Hispanic customers. Ruth Mitchell, spokeswoman for Des Moines-based Hy-Vee, says the courses have been offered for several weeks now.The Workplace Spanish program teaches employees common words and phrases that can help them to help customers complete their transactions. Mitchell says the course is being offered free to Hy-Vee employees through the state’s 15 community colleges. She says the course involves 15 hours of classroom training and those who take it are provided with an audio C-D of lessons and a pocket card they can carry at work detailing key Spanish phrases and phonetic pronunciations. Mitchell says employees who work in certain areas of the store may find the training very useful. She says workers in customer service, the bakery, the pharmacy and banking areas are particularly urged to learn Spanish. Mitchell says the program is in place now at eight stores in six Iowa cities (Denison, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Estherville and Fairfield) with more to follow.
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