Chinese restaurant first to offer English training to staff
Boston, MA – China Pearl became the first Chinese restaurant in Boston to invest in the language skills of its employees on June 5, introducing an English language program for its predominantly Chinese-speaking staff.
The well-known restaurant has engaged the Asian American Civic Association (AACA) to provide ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes to employees while they are at work. The program is funded by a $150,000 Learn At Work grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) over two years.
“Many of my employees have limited English skills,” said Patricia Moy, Director of Operations at China Pearl. “The customer demographics have changed in Chinatown. We are seeing more American-born Chinese and Americans visiting Chinatown to experience the culture and dine in local restaurants, so we need English-speaking staff to serve them.”
The program also helps employees better situate themselves in America. “Some of my employees had no chance to go to school in China. After a few classes, they don’t feel lost and dumb when approached by the English-speaking customers,” she said. “They can see eye to eye with people who speak English. It is all about empowerment so they don’t feel lost in the U.S.”
AACA has years of experience providing workplace education; most recently at South Cove Community Health Center and Tufts Medical Center. It is AACA’s first time to partner with a restaurant.
“The goal is for all employee-students to be better able to communicate in English in all aspects of their lives by the end of the program,” said Gillian Burleson, Workplace Education Coordinator at AACA. Past participants in the workplace education program have demonstrated that staff members with solid language skills are not only better placed to succeed in their current roles, but they also have the necessary skills to advance up the career ladder.
China Pearl hosts English classes on four afternoons per week during the hours when business is slow. There are two levels of classes available: one basic level, taught by a Cantonese-speaking instructor, and one higher level English immersion class. China Pearl is required to give its employees 50% release time under the terms of the grant, however the restaurant actually exceeds this requirement, paying workers their full salaries while they attend classes.
Founded in 1967, the Asian American Civic Association (AACA) is a premier workforce development center in Greater Boston. AACA provides all immigrants and economically disadvantaged individuals with English education, occupational training, and social services which enable them to realize lasting economic self-sufficiency. It also runs the Buds & Blossoms Early Education and Care Center, the first Chinese Mandarin-immersion childcare center in Greater Boston, and publishes Sampan, the only bilingual English/Chinese newspaper in New England. For more information, please visit aaca-boston.org.
About China Pearl
Best known for its exquisite dim sum, China Pearl is located in the heart of Chinatown, where it serves a bustling crowd of Asians looking for a taste of home, and non-Asians looking for a new taste experience.
This post is also available in: Chinese