Spanish in the Kitchen

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by miss kim78, Apr 13, 2013.

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  1. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    With Spanish being spoken more than English in many of the professional kitchens, some establishments require staff to be bilingual. I wanted to ask fellow Cheftalkers what they think about this. I once worked in a kitchen (during the holiday season a couple of years ago) where English was hardly spoken. Some of the staff did not even understand English. The language barrier was frustrating. There was a lot of misunderstanding that caused problems.

    Learning a new language is always fun, but I have no intention of learning Spanish (I’d rather be studying French, Japanese, or Italian if I were to pick up a new language). I realize that it is the most practical foreign language to learn, but my take on it is that the Spanish speaking workers are living in the United States of America…not Mexico, Guatemala, or any other Spanish speaking countries. THEY should be the ones making an effort to be learning English, not the other way around. If I was living in Mexico, I'd be the one making the effort to learn the main language, Spanish. I wouldn't expect everyone to be catering to my linguistic needs by expecting THEM to learn English just for people like me.

    And I do understand and speak a little Spanish (enough to know when someone is talking sh*t about me), but I refuse to invest my time learning the language. And I think when companies require candidates to be bilingual in Spanish, it only propels the Spanish speakers to be more lazy in learning English. That is why so many of them won’t even try learning English.

     

     
  2. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I had a husband and wife from El Salvador working for me some years back, I made them speak in English as much as they could and I spoke to them in Spanish, we Both taught each other a new language.

    As long as you know kitchen Spanish, and can say simple phrases you will be ok.
     
  3. pollopicu

    pollopicu

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    The reason there are so many Spanish speaking workers in the kitchen is because Spanish people are willing to work for sh** pay, something a lot of English-speaking people don't want to do. Lots of American people don't want to work utility in the kitchen because they believe it's below them, although they don't have jobs, or an education because they are too lazy and believe they should be handed a job that pays $20.00 an hour just because they speak English and were born in the land of milk and honey. I've worked in kitchens for close to two decades, and never met an American utility worker who worked as hard as Spanish people, who didn't have a feeling of self-entitlement, and who stayed at the job for more than a year, and I can put my hand on bible to that. You can ask the best chefs in the industry who have been their most loyal and hardest workers, and they will most likely tell you it's been a person of Spanish descent.

    Perhaps you should be a little more appreciative that you have people who although have difficulty speaking the language, or don't speak English it at all, are dependable, keep their head down, don't talk back, are hard-working, and loyal, and keep the chips and dip coming.

    I wish you could realize how you sound...your post definitely has serious undertones, if you know what I mean...

    I'm sorry to break it to you, but America's second language is rapidly becoming Spanish. You can either be embittered by it, or you can attempt to be open-minded enough to embrace it, and accept that no matter what your feelings are, Spanish in the kitchen is there to stay and there's nothing you can do about it. You should be grateful to people from "Mexico, and Guatemala", and tip your hat off to them, because you've met one of the hardest working people on the face of the earth. Not to mention the fact that you have no idea what they've been through, or any of their struggles leaving their own oppressive country and families, to be in a place where they are second-class citizens, are treated poorly, and looked down upon, make less than minimum wage, and smile while they're eating sh** cake. If you can't handle Spanish in the kitchen, then the food industry isn't for you.

    I'd also like to add that I never met a Spanish kitchen worker who wasn't desperate to understand and speak English. Unfortunately, they work tediously long hours, don't spend enough time speaking to English-speaking people in the kitchen to be able to grasp the language. They are lucky to get home and have enough time to spend with their family, sleep, and perhaps work a second job.

    I have to say I'm deeply offended by your post.

    I'll be gracious enough to wish you luck learning French.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 14, 2013
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  4. durangojo

    durangojo

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    I wanted to reply but pollopicu has made the point so succinctly...++++thank you pollopicu for taking the words out of my heart and making them better.....i would only like to add that working in a Spanish speaking kitchen is as wonderful an experience as you let it be, as you give. if you give and listen and learn,trust me, there is a lot to learn from them....they love and are eager to learn English and slang as much as I love to learn Spanish and spanglish and somewhere in the mix we all come out with simple respect for one another, and always get the sometimes insurmountable workload done. i work side by side with these hard working lovely people...they always laugh,smile, joke and SING...what's not to like?

    joey

    ps. Most if not all of the Mexicans I work with in the kitchen all have other jobs that they go to sometimes right from this job, with no break other the driving to get there..and they work 7 days a week....
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  5. evilporkchop

    evilporkchop

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    I work.in an asian restaurant ....all spanish speakers unable to efficiantly speak English.

    Yet, somehow someway, the dishes get done ,the food gets done,costumers are happy and the restaurant makes money.
    Sometimes language isnt the issue,its the attitude of the team.as a whole.
     
  6. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    I apologize if anyone is offended. That was not my intent. And let me tell you that I come from an immigrant family as well (I am a second generation Korean American, but my parents were immigrants). I am very familiar with the struggles, the sacrifice, and the emotional hardships that immigrants face in this country. The language and cultural barrier can be obstacles in pursuing that “American Dream”. My family members all faced the exact same barriers that immigrants of Spanish speaking countries face. During the wave of Korean immigration of that time, many came here for better opportunities. And there were also white collar professionals that came here, to find themselves only being qualified to clean the toilet or peel potatoes (because they didn’t speak English).

    But you know what? They MADE the time to make an effort to learn English. While working 80hours a week, every chance they got, they cracked open the English tutorial books, listened to tapes, watched American television…whatever it took to master the language.  They wouldn’t dare go out into the working world expecting people to be learning a foreign language just to convenience them. That is my point. Why should things be any different for Spanish speaking immigrants? Why should immigrants from other countries work their asses off to learn English while the Spanish speakers won’t even bother? How is that fair?
     
  7. recky

    recky

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    I'll offer my European perspective on this: I find it grossly unfair to accuse MissKim of racism. Well, I don't know her personally and she may be a member of the KKK (unlikely though, being Korean), but what she wrote is, in my humble opinion, common sense, not racist. Equal opportunities are a big thing in all European countries, and I'm sure in the US, too. One cannot create equal opportunities on the lowest common denominator.

    Over here, we have a welfare system that will offer financial and practical support to immigrants who don't speak the national language. At the same time, immigrants are expected to get their arses in gear so that they find work. And they won't find work without a good grasp of the local lingo. Period. But most will find work eventually, many go self-employed or find proper employment, as opposed to casual labour.

    I think that's fair. Are all Europeans racist? I don't think so.
     
     
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  8. evilporkchop

    evilporkchop

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    I work in an a restaurant where the kitchen staff BARELY speaks english and somehow the dishes get done.,the food gets cooked,and the restaurant makes money.
    And its like that in many kitchens.Ive witnessed alot of misscommunication between FOH and kitchen staff,and frustrations that could have been avoided if EVERYONE spoke the same language.

    But what do you do with a workforce that hasnt got the drive to learn a new language ,but is willing to work very hard all.day at your restaurant?
     
  9. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    Thank you, Recky. I think some people misunderstood my point. No one actually called me a “racist” in this discussion, but I can see how some people can perceive my thoughts as being “racist”. When immigrants move to a foreign country, it is THEIR job to learn the native language. It shouldn’t be the natives’ job to learn theirs. If I were to move to Mexico, I’d make an effort to make sure I mastered Spanish. If I moved to France, I’d be studying French day and night every chance I got. I would not be expecting people in Mexico, France, or whatever other country I (hypothetically) move to, to be taking the time to learn English just so it can convenience people that don't speak the native language.
     
  10. recky

    recky

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    In everything you say I can hear the "fully integrated immigrant child". I have lived and worked abroad myself and wouldn't have coped without learning the language (English is not my native language). And I certainly never expected any concessions from the locals.

    I am aware of the fact that US kitchens are very unique in their excessive use of a Latin American workforce, and from the outside it may even seem quite "multicultural", but when you look at it more closely, it really isn't all that romantic. It's nothing to do with equal opportunities and a lot with lacking opportunities.

    While I know that the Spanish-speaking kitchen workforce is hard-working and generally quite talented in this area, the lack of English is far from a good thing in my book.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  11. chefross

    chefross

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    I have worked as the only English speaking person in an all French kitchen. Now THAT'S fun.......You never know when you are being cussed at or being made the brunt of a joke.

    I have commanded a kitchen of 85% Hispanic people where English was spoken just fine.

    As in all things........it depends upon the person.

    I agree that immigrants should learn the language of the country they live in.

    Americans aren't putting enough effort into the cultural evolution of our country.

    Everybody keeps hammering on the need for the immigrant to learn our language, but the fact of the matter is, the population of our country will cause a 2nd or even a 3rd language to come about.

    It will happen. There as so many different cultures here already that it is enevitable.
     
  12. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    I  to worked in a kitchen where everybody was French. I learned it.  I worked many years ago for a chef that told all the staff  ''   I will pay you in the currency of the country who's language you speak''   Funny everyone learned English????????
     
  13. mano

    mano

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    If we don't personalize any of this issue, the OP is left with the fact that her decision limits her professionally.

    FWIW, the Spanish speaking BOH employees are usually terrific. The fact some don't speak much English limits them, as well. Some people, regardless of intelligence and effort have a hard time mastering new languages.

    Her belief that "When immigrants move to a foreign country, it is THEIR job to learn the native language. It shouldn’t be the natives’ job to learn theirs." baffles me. If that logic was applied in the rest of the restaurant everyone would do "their job" and nothing else. Native's learn the language of immigrants because the world works better that way.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  14. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Sometimes I wish that I didn't understand English.
     
  15. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    You can't tell people what their job is.  Here's a good exercise in imagination.  Everytime you encounter something that you think shouldn't be the case ask yourself if you can come up with three reasons why that might be.  For example, a seemingly healthy person parking in a handicap parking spot.
     
  16. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    Why does it sound like most people here are so anti-learning English?

    Mano, to your comment, “Her belief that "When immigrants move to a foreign country, it is THEIR job to learn the native language. It shouldn’t be the natives’ job to learn theirs." baffles me. If that logic was applied in the rest of the restaurant everyone would do "their job" and nothing else. Native's learn the language of immigrants because the world works better that way. - Since natives are learning the languages of immigrants, does that mean the natives are going to learn every immigrant language there is? Going to pick up Vietnamese, German, Italian, and yada yada since “the world works better that way”? I don’t see how it’s fair to apply your concept solely to Spanish speakers. The USA is a melting pot, home to people from all over the world. If we spent our time learning the immigrant language of every country, then really “nothing else” would get done. If might be fun, and an asset to learn a new language. But why should there be any favoritism towards the Spanish language?

    What I have seen is that many of the Spanish speakers don’t make an effort to learn English because they DON’T WANT TO. I’ll give props to those that do try and make an effort because they really want to learn. But many of them don’t want to because they feel they don’t have to. Even my Spanish speaking coworkers have told me this. They expressed the mentality that there is no need to learn English, so they DON’T WANT TO (the same way I DON’T WANT TO learn Spanish). Use Ed Buchanan’s former chef’s approach and pay people to learn English. I’m sure they are going to then WANT TO.

    So what do you do when your recipes are written in English? How are you going to trust anyone without the command of the language, to flawlessly follow through? Evilporkchop, attitude is important too. But there are times the language barrier can cause issues. When vital information needs to get relayed, they often misunderstand or not understand at all. Without a fluently bilingual staff member nearby to translate, there’s bound to be distress.
     
  17. mano

    mano

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    Your absolutist interpretation of my comment and way of looking at things speaks for itself. 

    Let's make it easier for everyone. In the context of working in a professional kitchen, where many of the employees speak a different language that someone else is capable of learning, it makes sense to learn that language as best one can. By not doing so, their professional options and growth are likely limited.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  18. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    “Someone else is capable of learning” this “different language,” Spanish, the same way “someone else” is “capable of learning” English.

    It’s almost like you are saying since “natives learn the language of immigrants because the world works better that way,” it’s the responsibility of the natives to learn the immigrants’ language while they make ZERO effort to even bother. It’s like you are in support of them not even having to bother learning English because we (the English speakers in this case) will do all the work in making efforts to learn THEIR language to accommodate them.  
     
  19. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    I've traveled rather extensively during my tenure as a World Bank consultant and have arrived at the conclusion that the USA is one of very few countries that tolerates something other than the country mother tongue for government or commerce.
     
     
  20. mano

    mano

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    Neither of those assumptions are remotely true. Take my statement at face value without believing I'm implying anything else. My statement applies equally to everyone, whether their primary language is Spanish, English, Japanese; whatever.

    Sorry if I'm unclear, but I've done my best.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
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