Bridging a Communications Gap

Mike Farrell and Maria Carone

Bridging a Communications Gap

Customized training helps Spanish-speaking employees earn necessary qualifications

| By: Daley-Hinkens, Carmelyn M

It was a unique request for the instructors. But they were up to the challenge.

“This had never been done before,” says Mike Farrell, department chair for Transportation Contract Training. “I’ve never taught a translated class before.”

It was also uncharted territory for Maria Carone, a part-time limited-term faculty member in World Languages and Cultures. But together, Mike and Maria led the first-of-its-kind Department of Transportation Annual Inspection Training with Spanish Interpretation to a group of employees at the request of their employer, Performance Corporation.

As mechanics at the Seymour company, the four employees not only service and repair the truck fleet but must also be qualified to conduct annual inspections required by the Department of Transportation to verify the vehicles are safe to be on the road. With the employees having limited English-speaking skills, Performance Corporation turned to FVTC’s Business and Industry Services team for training help and the customized program was born.

Employees came to the Appleton campus for a two-and-a-half-day program that combined lessons in the classroom and hands-on training in the diesel lab. Mike taught and Maria translated as needed.

“We did get an assist with technology. An updated version of PowerPoint would dictate what I said and translate it to Spanish on the screen,” Mike explains. “But Maria was critical in the translation piece as well. If the technology was not translating correctly, or the students did not understand, she would jump in and communicate with all of us.”

The employees completed the necessary training and earned the qualifications needed. It was also a great lesson in teamwork for the instructors.

“Mike was the main moderator and I was the bridge,” Maria explains. “Language is always a bridge to initiate communication and establish relationships, and often there is a sense of discomfort when you do not know what is being said. That settled down very quickly with this group of students. Trust was established quickly, which made it very pleasant.”