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Se habla Espanol

The U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that Hispanics are 44 million strong, or nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population. Back in 2004 the National Restaurant Association reported that 18 percent of restaurant employees were Hispanic.

Translation: People in this business might benefit from some basic Spanish skills. Here are some tools to check out.

Coffee Break Spanish

Fire up your iPod and download this tutorial. The free bite-size lessons cover topics like restaurant-related conversations about allergies, special diets and complaints. There are also general-purpose topics such as greetings, introductions and counting. You can also listen directly on the Web site. Podcasts are free, but a premium membership runs about $16 a month.

The Restaurant & Bar English/Spanish Spanish/English Dictionary

When it comes to on-the-fly translations, look to this handy $29.95 bilingual dictionary. It features industry-specific terms and equivalences for hard-to-translate expressions. Human resource and business operations sections are handy for restaurant owners. The pronunciation guide is designed to aid beginners.

Rosetta Stone Spanish

A Latin America-specific Spanish learning program is available as a CD-ROM set or online in three levels. Level 1 for beginners costs $209. The program features speech recognition that checks your pronunciation, a visually based learning environment and automated tutorials. Rosetta Stone’s aim is to get you up to a proficient speaking level. This program would suit restaurant owners that need to go the extra mile in their Spanish instruction. Also offered is an English program for Spanish-speakers who want to develop English skills.

Sed de Saber

This hardware and software package from Retention Education is an interactive, take-home English learning program designed for Hispanic foodservice workers. The $395 bundle includes a Quantum LeadPad, headphones, microphone, AC adapter and six Sed de Saber books with cartridges. The curriculum focuses on vocabulary, spelling and comprehension of foodservice and hospitality industry words, phrases and situations.

Spanish Steps

For a general approach to learning Spanish, check into this free online program from the BBC. Each section in the 24-step program takes about 20 minutes and aims to get you started with practical spoken Spanish. A solid introduction for new speakers in an online format.

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