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Mountain Spy :: September 2016

Written by Dave Meeker
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As more multi-cultural guests visit our resorts, especially in summer, the need for multi-lingual staff increases—or, at least the ability to adapt when there’s a language barrier. How do resorts measure up? As always, responses varied.

THE QUESTION: WE ARE HOSTING A COUPLE OF COLLEGE EXCHANGE STUDENTS FROM SPAIN AND WE WANT THEM TO ENJOY YOUR ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES, BUT THEY DON’T SPEAK ANY ENGLISH. WILL THE LANGUAGE BARRIER BE AN ISSUE?

MOUNTAIN 1, NY

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ummmm…the only time…I mean it can be a little bit of an issue because there are some things our tour guides need them to know. Is there anyone that can translate for them?
SAM: My wife and I probably won’t be able to be there with them, so— (contact gets interrupted)
Staff: Can you hold on one second?
SAM: I sure can.
Staff: (Didn’t put me on hold, just put the phone down; I could hear everything) [To another staffer, in a condescending tone: This guy and his wife are hosting some people from Spain that speak no English. Male voice: They have to be able to understand the rules, so they need to be here with them. Female: They can’t be here with them. I mean, nobody here speaks English, um, Spanish, so… Male voice: Tell him it’s not going to work.]
Staff: (Now back on the phone with me) Um, so the thing is, they do need somebody…they’re gonna have to have somebody translate for them, because, uh (male voice in background: It’s a safety thing), it’s a safety issue. They’re going to have to understand the rules and regulations before they do it. And, so, and none of our tour guides speak, you know, Spanish well enough to be able to translate for them.
SAM: OK.
Staff: So, yeah. I mean, so, your best bet is, maybe, try to find someone that can come with them and translate.
SAM: OK, gotcha. Thank you.
Staff: You’re welcome.

Rating: 3
Comment: There is a HOLD button on your phone. Use it.

 

MOUNTAIN 2, VA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose activities.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: OK, what are they trying to do? Mountain biking? Zip lining?
SAM: Either one, maybe both. My wife and I probably won’t be able to be there with them.
Staff: OK. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
SAM: Oh, great. So the explanation of safety stuff shouldn’t—
Staff: (Interrupting me) Right, right. Everything can be shown to them very easily, and there are people there at each station when they zip down, so…and you said you’d be there too, right?
SAM: Ah, I don’t think we’ll be able to be there, so that’s pretty much why I’m calling.
Staff: OK, OK. We do have one Spanish-speaking guy working here in a different area over in mountain operations. But maybe when the students are here, we can switch him around. But even if that didn’t work, it shouldn’t be much of a problem either way.
SAM: All right, great. Thanks so much!
Staff: You’re very welcome. Bye-bye.

Rating: 7
Comment: Knowing there’s a Spanish-speaking staffer who can help out earns gratitude. Interrupting, and not listening, though, is insulting.

 

MOUNTAIN 3, MI

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose activities.
First contact (after waiting 3 min, 20 sec): Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: (Pleasant laughter) Um, hmm. Would they just be going by themselves or would someone else be going with them?
SAM: Probably just them.
Staff: Um, they do get directions, ummm…I think we could potentially do that if we tell our guides beforehand, so they would pretty much just be showing them how to do everything. They have to put on their harnesses themselves, so we’d probably just be directing them how to do that. And then we attach them to the zip line and everything, so they’d be fine there. They would just essentially be following the group. We teach them how to do tricks and things like that, so it’s pretty much just an observation thing to see what someone else does.
SAM: Oh, all right. Cool.
Staff: Yeah, so I think if you’re comfortable with it, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. They would just have to observe.
SAM: Awesome, so should we let you guys know in advance if they’re coming?
Staff: You don’t have to do that, but when they get here we’ll make sure the guides that day know what’s going on.
SAM: Sounds good!
Staff: OK, perfect. Did you want to book it now? Or just check on times?
SAM: We’re still figuring out what dates we can come. It’s good to know they’ll be able to participate.
Staff: That’s totally fine. Yeah, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. Thanks for calling!

Rating: 9.5
Comment: Very pleasant, helpful, and reassuring. But that was a loooong time to be on hold.

 

MOUNTAIN 4, ON

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose activities.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Uh, I don’t really think so. We have people who visit us from all over the world who have limited language. Are you just going to let them go on their own?
SAM: Yes, most likely. They’re college students, so they’re old enough.
Staff: And they speak Spanish, you said?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: OK, I don’t think anyone on our team speaks it, but I’m sure they can communicate somehow? Especially if they know just a little bit of English. We can take them out and show them what they may be interested in doing.
SAM: They really don’t speak any English. They are interested in doing something more adventurous.
Staff: If they want to do something like the zip line, just make sure they have running shoes on, or just closed toed and closed back shoes. Otherwise they won’t let them do some of the activities.
SAM: We’ll make sure to have them in proper dress, thanks. As far as the staff explaining safety stuff, that can be figured out—
Staff: (Interrupting me) Are they here to study English, as well?
SAM: They’re here on an exchange program.
Staff: But part of their goal is they’re probably going to learn some, right?
SAM: Um, yeah, I’m sure—
Staff: (Interrupting me again) Yeah, so we can certainly help them. I’m sure they know a few words here and there. Enough to get them through. I just don’t believe anyone in our guest services department speaks Spanish. But maybe they do. I’m not sure. Maybe there are a few out there that I haven’t worked with yet.
SAM: Well, we’ll see.
Staff: You have a good day. Bye, now.

Rating: 6
Comment: Nice enough, for sure. But please, please, stop interrupting!

 

MOUNTAIN 5, AZ

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ummm. What are you looking for?
SAM: I just want to know if the language barrier is going to be an issue for them to take part in the zip line and stuff.
Staff: Ummmm…uhhh…we don’t have anyone that speaks Spanish.
SAM: OK, so does that mean they can’t take part in any activities?
Staff: Um. Hang on. (not put on hold, just put the phone down)
Staff: Hello?
SAM: Hello? It’s still me.
Staff: Oh, what were you looking for again?
SAM: If the Spanish-speaking students we’re hosting can come enjoy the zip line and other activities.
Staff: Oh. Well. I don’t think anyone here speaks Spanish.
SAM: Yeah. I got that. So can they not participate because of the language barrier?
Staff: Hang on (another staffer picks up, male).
Staff: Yeah, so we don’t have anyone that speaks Spanish. Even in other departments (this is getting ridiculous). We’re trying to hire someone who does, but haven’t yet.
SAM: So can they participate or not?
Staff: No.
SAM: OK, is it a safety issue?
Staff: Yeah. It’s a safety issue. You’d need a  
translator.
SAM: Roger that. Bye.
Staff: Bye.

Rating: 2
Comment: At least you picked up the phone on the first try. But miss, lay off whatever you’re ingesting before going to work.

 

MOUNTAIN 6, PA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose activities.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: No problem! I don’t think that’ll be an issue. We’ve had some different exchange students come up before. And even for the zip line canopy tour, it’s guided and there are typically two guides with no more than eight or nine people. I think they could demonstrate it pretty easily. Even with the language barrier, I think we could get the point across of what to do out there.
SAM: OK, cool. So even with the safety explanation the guides can communicate that so it’s understood?
Staff: Yeah. And the guides are with them the whole time, so they can always verify that they understand things as they’re going through the tour, as well.
SAM: Great. So they’ll keep checking on them?
Staff: Yup! They do that anyway, so it should be fine.
SAM: All right! Thanks for the help.
Staff: You’re welcome! Thanks for calling.

Rating: 10
Comment: He was pleasant, patient, and answered my questions without interrupting. Even a “no” answer would be a winner with that approach.
Identity revealed: Ski Roundtop

 

MOUNTAIN 7, MT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose activities.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: No, it won’t. I mean, I’m sure you’ve been up to the resort during the winter and have seen that we do hire a good amount of foreign staff members, so we do run into that situation quite a bit. It won’t be too big of a problem. The only thing it might interfere with is…I mean, there’s not too much at all it’ll interfere with. Everything they’re going to be showing them can be very visual, as well.
SAM: OK, great. So even if there’s not someone there who is Spanish speaking, they’ll be able to non-verbally communicate what’s going on with all the safety stuff?
Staff: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
SAM: All right, great. Thanks.
Staff: Yeah, thank you for calling.

Score: 8
Comment: Polite, and quickly realized communication won’t be an issue.

 

MOUNTAIN 8, NY

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: You would have to translate for ‘em.
SAM: OK, but—
Staff: (interrupting me) I mean, they should be OK after you translate. I mean, they’re gonna have to take direction, for sure.
SAM: So if we can’t be there with them, that will present a problem?
Staff: Um…it could pose a problem, because you kind of go through a 15-minute safety briefing. Which, unfortunately, I don’t think we have anybody who can do a full briefing in Spanish (silence).
SAM: OK.
Staff: So, I mean, would somebody be able to come with them to translate for them?
SAM: I’m not sure; it depends on the day, but probably not.
Staff: Well, I would definitely suggest having someone here with them, because even when they get up to the park they’re gonna have to communicate with the guides in the park. OK?
SAM: OK. Gotcha. Thanks.
Staff: No problem. Buh-bye.

Score: 3
Comment: It’s OK if we need someone to translate for them, but you don’t have to be snarky. And what’s with the interrupting?

 

MOUNTAIN 9, IL

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: No, it should not be.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Actually, we have some Spanish-speaking people who are employed here, so if they need help communicating we can get a couple of our wait staff, um, you know, that can help them out. So please don’t have them feel shy about asking if they need to have some translation.
SAM: OK, awesome. So for safety explanation that won’t be a—
Staff: (interrupting me) Yeah, yeah, they might wanna just, um, yeah, I would think for safety and just the rules or something, we might want to get one of our Spanish-speaking employees to basically tell them the gist of it.
SAM: I’m glad to hear that’s an option. Thank—
Staff: (interrupting me again) Yup, yup. And just when you drop them off, ask if you can have a staff member that can help them communicate.
SAM: Outstanding. I’ll certainly do that. I appreciate the help.
Staff: All right, sir. Buh-bye.

Score: 7.5
She was very nice, and kindly offered the assistance of a Spanish-speaking staffer, but seriously, what’s with all the interrupting?

 

MOUNTAIN 10, VT

Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: (silence…) Ummm…it shouldn’t be. However, like, will they be able to…they won’t be able to understand instructions?
SAM: If only spoken, probably not.
Staff: Hmm. Well, cuz like, there is instructions if they were to do the zip line or something like that. You know, there’s instruction they would need to…gosh (silence)…you know, let me just put you right through to the counter and see. Maybe they’ve had this question before? I don’t know. But let’s find out, OK? One moment.
SAM: Thank you. (transferred)
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Uh, there are a lot of safety instructions and stuff they need to listen to. So that will be an issue.
SAM: OK. Is there anyone there who knows any Spanish? Or can the instructions be demonstrated?
Staff: Um, I’m not sure what our guides outside can speak. I know it’s not something we advertise. You could potentially get lucky, but I can’t guarantee that for specific dates that this guy is going to be here and be a translator.
SAM: Gotcha. OK. Thanks.
Staff: Not a problem. Bye.

Score: 5
Comment: First contact was pleasant, wanted to help, and did the right thing by transferring me. Second contact, not so much.

Read 1568 times Last modified on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 12:13

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