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Cómo Se Dice?

Break down the language barrier between you and your employees.

This story appears in the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After 30 years in the roofing , Bruce Fryer found himself going back to school to learn how to run his company better. This time, the owner of Fryer Roofing Co. Inc. in Fresno, , was learning a new language so he could communicate with his largely non-English-speaking, 50-person work force. "I went through a Spanish class to try to at least familiarize myself with key words, especially safety-related words," says Fryer, 49.

No one knows precisely how many U.S. workers have limited or non-existent English skills, says Bob Losyk, Greensboro, North Carolina, author of Managing A Changing Workforce. But with estimates of the number of illegal immigrants alone ranging north of 10 million, the numbers are probably significant. "You've got a whole work force there that doesn't speak the language," says Losyk.

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