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REGION : Colleges Teach English Skills to Firm Staffers

January 20, 1994

At the Crown Sterling Suites, a 350-room hotel in El Segundo, some housekeepers start their day twice a week not by cleaning rooms but by learning English.

About 20 employees assemble in the hotel banquet room for a course designed by El Camino College near Torrance, learning how to say everything from "good morning" to how to direct guests to local attractions.

Hotel officials arranged for the classes after receiving complaints from patrons that some hotel employees, many of whom are Latino, could not answer questions or understand requests, said Shar Franklin, general manager of the hotel.

In the past two years, both El Camino and Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson have created programs to teach English at area businesses. Among their first clients were Deutsch Metal Components in Gardena and International Rectifier in El Segundo.

Debra Jonas, who heads Cal State's American Language and Culture Program, said businesses' need for the program has increased as the South Bay's Asian and Latino communities have increased.

The on-site courses are a source of revenue for cash-strapped campuses, said Laura Franklin of El Camino College, which charges $125 per hour for language instruction. Profits go to the school's general fund.

Officials at Crown Sterling, which has spent about $12,000 on English-language training in the past year, said the classes give employees self-confidence.

Housekeepers routinely greet guests in English now, Franklin said.

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