Magazine article Workforce

Language Training Improves Global Business at ARCO

Magazine article Workforce

Language Training Improves Global Business at ARCO

Article excerpt

Johnna Capitano isn't planning to go to China, but this spring she took a 12-week class in Mandarin Chinese. Now she can exchange greetings in the dialect, and she knows enough to be careful when she uses the Chinese word ma, which, depending on the intonation, has different meanings, including horse, mummy and mother.

"It was very challenging, because the tones are difficult to master," says Capitano, a Los Angeles (LA)-based human resources development consultant for ARCO Products Co., the downstream refinery and marketing arm of ARCO. "At times it was very frustrating, not being able to pronounce a word the way the instructor kept repeating it."

But Capitano stuck with it and was one of 10 employees who completed a pilot class in conversational Mandarin Chinese that the company conducted this spring. Twice-weekly classes, which met for 1 1/2 hours at a time, were held at ARCO Products Co.'s two sites in Los Angeles and in Anaheim, California. The company is exploring potential business opportunities in China and has already hosted Chinese delegations on tours of its LA refinery. Capitano will probably be involved in hosting future delegations.

Paula Johnston, ARCO Products' human resources consultant for international projects, set up the pilot language training in response to employees' requests. "Members of our technical team who had been to China to analyze business opportunities found it was difficult to communicate because everything was done through interpreters. We've also had several Chinese delegations visit ARCO, and did everything via interpreters. We thought since we're just looking at opportunities now, why not use the time appropriately and offer Mandarin classes before things heat up?"

Johnston requested bids from three vendors: a university, a consulting firm on the East Coast and Berlitz. …

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