Thursday 28th April 2005


Habla Español

Optik launches online Spanish service

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A pedestrian walks past the street signs at the corner of Queen and St Vincent Street which carry both the Spanish and English versions of the names.

Photo: Dilip Singh

You might have seen the blue and white signs in Port-of-Spain: Calle Frederick or Calle Abercromby, calle being Spanish for street.

You might remember having read about a large advertisement in the newspaper drawing attention to the Secretariat for the Implementation of Spanish at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Riverside Plaza.

Various government officials in the last few years have spoken of the introduction of Spanish as a second language in T&T.

And businesses have been touting the advantages of reaching out to new markets in Spanish-speaking countries.

That’s the backdrop against which Optik Technologies at 9 Victoria Square East, Port-of-Spain has launched an online Spanish service.

The service is being offered in partnership with Berlitz International, an international language instruction, translation and localisation services company. Berlitz conducts training in 27 languages.

Operations manager Andrew de Gannes said Optik has co-operated with the Venezuelan Institute of Culture and Co-operation to provide workshops, job training and coaching to corporate and government clients.

De Gannes, who described Optik as a software development company, said the online Spanish programme has been marketed at the insurance and banking industries.

CEO Gregory Noone said he’s aware that native Spanish speakers appreciate it when business meetings are conducted in their language, even though the speaker’s grammar and pronunciation may be imperfect.

Noone said learning Spanish as a second language, which is minimal in the corporate sector, can attract greater business if a company promotes it for customer services, interacting with clients, conducting negotiations and at business functions.

The two explained that interested clients can pay US$290 for up to 2,000 contact hours. The “blended approach” de Gannes spoke of includes online lessons in different scenarios—a business meeting, a cocktail function, a conference—and input from an instructor.

Learning with an instructor’s assistance helps a student of Spanish develop confidence so he or she is understood in conversing in Spanish in an unfamiliar setting.

The online lessons will take one through the beginning stages of speaking Spanish to fluency stage, de Gannes said.

“With the blended approach, you can be fluent at the end of it,” he said.

Optik Technologies, in business since 2000, has conducted hundreds of courses in business and financial skills, project management, customer service and information technology.

Locally, Optik was awarded the Business Development Company’s “Excellence in E-Commerce 2004,” the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Caribbean 2003, the exclusive contract with bpTT for the supply of all Internet/intranet Web development services and develops Web-based catalogue for Label House Group Ltd.

A big chunk of Optik’s business is in Jacksonville, Florida.

Optik was selected to design, develop and host the official online dining guide for the February Superbowl in Jacksonville. It was also awarded the contract to develop 200 First Street, a property management development company.




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