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No Habla Espanol? ? : No Problema

February 20, 1986

"You have forgotten to clean the grout in the shower." "When you change the bed, please put on the pretty sheets." "I appreciate the way you pick the dead leaves off the geraniums: here is a $20 bonus."

If you've always wanted to express such sentiments to your non-English-speaking cleaning people but just didn't know how to put them into Spanish, Chinese or whatever, you can call (800) TEL-LANG, a 2-month-old telephone translation service.

TEL-LANG is the brainchild of industrial engineer Eugene Meyers, who had the idea when a Spanish-speaking co-worker complained about how her bosses' wives were constantly badgering her to translate orders to the hired help at home.

"Most foreign speakers, if you give them a string of instructions and ask them at the end if they understand--they just nod," Meyers says. That can lead to things such as uncleaned shower grout and worse.

Not all TEL-LANG customers are English-speaking employers who want to communicate with foreign-speaking domestics. After the service was mentioned on a Spanish-language TV station, it got a slew of calls from Spanish speakers who needed to straighten out credit problems over the phone. "They were happy to pay the rates," Meyers says.

Once translating begins, the service charges $3 per minute with a two-minute minimum. The average time needed is three to seven minutes.

Oh, and if your hired help are--let's see, what's the word in English?--undocumented aliens, there is no need to worry that Meyers will report you. "Most customers kind of hint around to find out whether we're going to give their names out," he says. "But we're very careful about our client list."

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