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Irma Astier in a Field with Steinbeck Country Produce Staff
Spanish Instructor Irma Astier (second from left) working with Steinbeck Country Produce staff in the field.

Chris Huntington is helping to grow more than lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery and strawberries on the ranchos of the Salinas Valley. Through the Middlebury Institute’s Custom Language Services (CLS), the CEO of Steinbeck Country Produce is cultivating intercultural communication among his employees.

As a graduate of the CLS program, Chris saw firsthand the value of his Spanish-language skills when interacting with Steinbeck employees. Based on his experience he decided to provide language training for other staff to improve communication throughout the organization.

CLS Spanish Instructor Irma Astier applies a content-based instruction approach, bringing authenticity to the language program by connecting classroom learning with real-world applications. At Steinbeck, she spent time with the field foremen, learning the process of preparing the soil, caring for the plants, and then cutting, cleaning, and packing the vegetables. She used that knowledge to prepare relevant materials for the classroom. She also facilitates excursions to el rancho, where learners practice their skills on the job with native Spanish speakers, bridging the traditional divide between corporate and field employees.

This customized inter-language experience paves the way for better communication and intercultural understanding within the company, which Chris sees ultimately as key to better serving his customers.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir