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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Bilingual Businesses Booming
by Pamela Mercer
February 20, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.
It's a sign of the times as Central Florida's Hispanic population
continues to grow. But English won't be the only language used
For businesses seeking to make forays into a growing Hispanic
market, bilingualism is increasingly seen as an asset, officials
say. Demand for people who can function in both languages is creating
Lisa G. Siegel-Cruz has her own translation company, ALS International
Spanish Translation and Transcription Services, in Orange County.
She says more businesses are seeking to have their advertisements
translated into Spanish when they appear in Spanish-language publications.
Writing in Spanish, she said, "is a goodwill approach.
People say, 'Wow, they took the time to advertise it,' and that
gets you one foot in their door."
Communicating in both languages is a two-way street. Some stores
that cater to Hispanics also label products in English.
At the front door of the Tomato Express supermarket in Kissimmee,
the helpful sign "pull" is next to the Spanish equivalent,
In the meats section, shoppers can find signs in both languages
for products. There are aisles with staples from Argentina, Colombia,
Peru and Brazil. There also are American symbols such as Quaker
Oats and Florida orange juice.
"I don't want to limit myself to one market," said
Stella Munoz Siracuza, one of the store's owners. "I'm bilingual.
Being bilingual has given me a great advantage."
Since coming to this country, Munoz and thousands of other
Hispanics have realized the need to learn English. But now English-speakers
also see the need to learn Spanish.
The Osceola campus of Valencia Community College is offering
Spanish lessons for people who work in the construction industry.
The course seeks to teach students to speak with employees and
customers. Another class will teach students Spanish to understand
day-to-day activities. Other courses, such as one on how to manage
projects and control change, are offered in both English and Spanish.
At other companies, bilingualism is becoming standard. At Banco
Popular, which employs more than 300 at eight Central Florida
branches, about 85 percent of the employees speak both English
and Spanish, said Laura Sanchez, the company's human resources
manager for the region. Spanish is not required for a job at the
bank, but it is a "highly desirable" asset, she said.
The bank recently has begun to encourage employees to take
night courses in Spanish. Those who volunteer and earn A and B
grades are eligible for a full reimbursement of their study expenses.
In general, business leaders say, the need for more Spanish
is mostly felt in companies that deal with a large number of individual
"The enormous increase in the Hispanic population has
resulted in a very attractive market niche," said Jose Fernandez,
the president of the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund in Orlando.
"There are some things, culturally, that many Hispanics prefer
to do in their native language. One would be medical services.
Or financial services, whether it's traditional banking, financial
planning or even purchasing a vehicle."