International workers break English barrier with help from UCF program

Orange County grant made program possible

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gloria Palacio with UCF Global was teaching a class full of Rosen Hotels and Resorts employees how to greet visitors in English.

The class is part of a free program that helps workers better communicate while on the job.

Mery Judith Sarmiento from Colombia told News 6 the class is helping her boost her confidence when it comes to speaking English.

“Aprender a saludar, al entender a la profesora cuando ella me esta hablando, y empezar a tener mas confianza en nostros hablar,” Sarmiento said.

Translation: “Learning how to say hi, understanding the teacher when she speaks, and just learning how to have confidence when it comes to speaking.”

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Louis Selon Dieu is from Haiti.

He’s been working at Rosen Hotels and Resorts for five years, but it wasn’t until recently that he was able to get an opportunity where he can take English lessons.

“I feel good when they teach in the class English. I love, love teacher. Teacher teaches very good,” Selon Dieu said.

The program was funded through an Orange County grant after officials realized some companies were having trouble finding and retaining employees, adding that the language barrier was part of the issue.

“One of the things that came up was the issue of language. The potential for a lot of the workers that were already within their companies to move up into management roles, or technician roles. The only thing holding them back in a lot of times was the language barrier,” said Renuka Sastri, Orange County program coordinator.

Based on the success of the ESOL classes so far, Sastri said the county is in talks to try and get more funding to extend the program for workers.

“I think they are grateful for the experience,” said Jennifer Haddad with UCF’s Global Program.

Haddad explained the program offers classes onsite for associates so they don’t have to worry about having to choose between taking a class off hours. They are also getting paid for taking the class.

“I think one of the most inspiring things is to see how they are just grabbing this experience and making the most of it,” Haddad said.

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About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!