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Cómo Se Dice? Break down the language barrier between you and your employees.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After 30 years in the roofing business, Bruce Fryer foundhimself going back to school to learn how to run his companybetter. This time, the owner of Fryer Roofing Co. Inc. in Fresno,California, was learning a new language so he could communicatewith his largely non-English-speaking, 50-person work force."I went through a Spanish class to try to at least familiarizemyself with key words, especially safety-related words," saysFryer, 49.

No one knows precisely how many U.S. workers have limited ornon-existent English skills, says Bob Losyk, Greensboro, NorthCarolina, author of Managing A Changing Workforce. But withestimates of the number of illegal immigrants alone ranging northof 10 million, the numbers are probably significant."You've got a whole work force there that doesn'tspeak the language," says Losyk.

Non-English-speaking workers may have difficulty understandingsafety warnings, company policies, product specifications and otherimportant communications. That, in turn, can raise safety concernsand insurance costs, lead to run-ins with regulators, promote poorquality, and generally make an owner or a manager's job moredifficult. "It can contribute to workers' compensationcosts and a wide variety of issues," says Virda Rhem, a memberof the national workplace diversity panel of the Society for HumanResource Management in Washington, DC.

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