Attitudes Toward Non English Speakers Shown in Silent Cooking Activity

Imagine restaurant kitchen managers scurrying to prepare lunch time entrees as their staffs cut, chop and plate. Now imagine them doing that in complete silence. The exercise is part of a University of Houston study that measures attitudes about non-English-speaking individuals.

"As future kitchen managers, it's very likely that many kitchen workers will not speak English as a first language," said Jay Neal, assistant professor and researcher at the UH College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. "If a worker without English is underutilized because he cannot communicate with managers, and vice versa, he may feel alienated and, eventually, leave. We hope this exercise gives these future managers tools to communicate despite language barriers."

Students from the summer Food Service Production and Operations class will demonstrate this charades-like activity beginning at 8 a.m., Thursday, June 25 in the college's kitchens, room S-114. Kitchen team leaders will be given a recipe in English, while their teammates will receive the recipe written in different languages. All directions from the student leaders will be conveyed only through gestures or demonstrations.

"Non-English-speaking individuals working in restaurants and hotels is a modern-day reality," said assistant professor Juan Madera. "Companies that face this challenging issue through training or other forms of diversity management put themselves in a better position to compete in a global market than those that simply ignore this issue."

The exercise is part of a larger UH study on attitudes toward non-English speakers. Preliminary data found negative attitudes toward non-English-speaking individuals decreased once participants received empathy training in the form of the silent cooking activity. Furthermore, participants believed in more equality for the non-English speaker after training.

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WHAT: Cooking In Silence: Examining Attitudes of Non-English Speakers
WHEN: 8 a.m. , Thursday, June 25
WHERE: UH Hilton College, Room S-114

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