U.S. immigrants study English

The Dallas hotel chain is one of many companies across the country helping immigrant workers learn English as the Hispanic population booms. Officials say the programs can give employees the skills they need to be promoted later in their careers.

The United States' Hispanic population doubled between 1980 and 2000, making immigrant and U.S.-born Latinos the country's largest minority group. An estimated 5 million adults with limited English skills work in the service industry, said Dave Henninger, senior vice president for marketing for Retention Education LLC, a company that oversees language programs for two companies.

"I think people are realizing they need to help these folks be successful because they are the future of the industry," Henninger said.

Restaurant operator Brinker International Inc., foodservice company Sodexho USA and restaurant chain Cracker Barrel also offer courses like Wyndham's.

Students work on lessons at home using a LeapFrog pad, an electronic book often used to help young children learn to read.

Yet some workers weren't familiar with computers, so technology-based training wasn't very helpful. Regular class attendance was difficult because of work and family schedules. Also, people with different skill levels were all in the same class.

With long waiting lists for English classes and predictions of a work force shortage in 10 years for the restaurant industry, it's understandable why hotels and restaurants are leading the way in teaching immigrant employees English, the AP reports.

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