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Cómo Se Dice?

Break down the language barrier between you and your employees.

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

After 30 years in the roofing business, 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, California, 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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