In the realm of professional networking, opportunities for meaningful connections can emerge helping us reshape our understanding within our respective fields and providing valuable insight.  I’ve personally experienced that when someone within the same field of expertise as me discovered my profile on LinkedIn and extended a connection request.  Following my acceptance, we had an exchange through messaging about what we each did and offered.  It was at that point that I mentioned my specialization in English for Specific Purposes (ESP), with a particular focus on the dynamic warehousing industry.  It was his reply that prompted me to write this article.  He posed the question: “Is there a need for warehouse English?” So, let’s explore that for a bit.

In a world of global commerce, the rise of e-commerce, the growth of international trade, and the increasing customer expectations for quick deliveries, the importance of efficient warehousing has become crucial.  It plays an essential role in facilitating the seamless flow of goods from production, to delivery, to consumption.  However, the warehousing industry has struggled with labor shortages throughout the years.  A Forbes article reported that in July 2021, the warehousing and transportation industry had a record of 490,000 openings. (Banker, 2021) while another article in Freightwave reported that the logistics warehouse vacancy rates in the US have been at near historic lows since 2022 (Solomon, 2022).  Several reasons contribute to those shortages, such as the rapid growth generating an overwhelming demand unable to be met by the available workforce.  Additionally, the physical nature and sometimes strenuous labor of warehouse work, and its demanding schedules dissuades prospective individuals from pursuing a career in warehousing. Regardless of the reason, warehouse companies have resorted to exploring different solutions to address this challenge, leading them to cast a wider net and tap into a diverse talent pool that includes non-native English speakers.  As a result, the warehouse industry has become a multicultural hub, with employees hailing from different backgrounds and language proficiencies.  Those employees bring with them a range of skill sets, unique perspectives, and cultural insights that contribute to the overall productivity of the warehouse workforce.  By embracing non-native employees, warehouses are not only addressing the labor shortage but also leveraging the strengths of a diverse workforce to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.  However, the language and cultural barriers that are part of hiring non-native employees can sometimes also be a hindrance to effective communication and efficiency on the job.  Nevertheless, recognizing the immense value that those non-native employees bring, companies are investing in language support services to facilitate effective communication, promote inclusivity, and bridge the linguistic gaps that may affect performance.  

Language support services in companies can take on varying forms and are usually tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the workforce.  Depending on the need, companies may leverage technology to bridge language barriers. This can involve language translating software and applications that allow for real-time communication and document translations.  Such technology can be particularly beneficial in multilingual environments where employees may speak different languages or need instant translation.  Another approach involves companies hiring bilingual or multilingual staff members who can serve as language liaisons or interpreters, facilitating smooth communication between employees of different language backgrounds.  These language experts can be hired for specific purposes, such as translating documents, interpreting during meetings or training sessions, and bridging linguistic gaps that may arise on a day-to-day basis.  On the other hand, some companies choose to capitalize on their existing bilingual workforce to help bridge the language barriers of newly hired non-native speakers.  These bilingual employees are already familiar with the warehouse’s operations and cultures therefore serve as a vital language liaison facilitating communication and work performance.  One common approach entails providing language training programs designed to enhance employee’s proficiency in the English language, which is precisely where my area of expertise proves invaluable.  These programs may range from basic language courses aimed at fundamental communication skills to more specialized training tailored to industry-specific terminology and job-related tasks.  Ultimately, the choice of language support services depends on the specific requirements of the company, its employees, and the nature of the operations.  By implementing appropriate language support measures, companies demonstrate their commitment to their employees and to creating inclusivity. 

While using technology and leveraging bilingual staff are great resources, they are temporary solutions that often offer only immediate remedies.  In many instances, non-native employees are not actively learning English, resulting in a persistent language gap.  Moreover, these language support services may not always be readily accessible when employees require them the most.  Recognizing this, I started LENa Institute to offer a comprehensive and tailored approach that specializes in developing customized English programs that are designed to equip employees with industry-specific terminology along with learning general English. This empowers them within their jobs and enables them to effectively carry out their duties with confidence and proficiency.  As TESOL professionals, we know very well the importance of teaching English within context, and providing English classes embedded with warehouse terminology and language makes learning more comprehensible, relatable, meaningful, and valuable. Here are some of the other benefits I’ve found of carrying out warehouse English classes: 


Providing English classes to non-native warehouse employees promotes inclusion within the company.  Language barriers can create a sense of isolation and exclusion as it limits their ability to fully participate in work-related meetings and interact with colleagues.  By offering English classes, the company demonstrates its commitment to inclusivity, fostering a more welcoming and supportive environment.  It allows employees to feel valued and included, leading to stronger team cohesion and a sense of belonging.  It can also give them a sense of confidence and with increased confidence, non-native employees are more likely to engage in discussions, seek new opportunities for growth, and take on additional responsibility as they feel part of the workforce.  Following an 8 week program at a warehouse, the supervisor had expressed to me that one of the employees with the lowest language proficiency had significantly increased their level of verbal communication at work.   

A Safer Work Environment

Clear communication is essential for ensuring that safety protocols and procedures are understood and followed correctly in a warehouse.  According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020, the average rate of recorded injuries in the warehousing industry was between 4.8 and 5.5 for every 100 full-time workers.  By enhancing the non-native’s employee’s English language skills, particularly those related to the scope of their jobs, they can better understand instructions, warnings, and guidelines, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.  Effective communication also enables them to communicate potential hazards and concerns, promoting a safer work environment for everyone. 

Reduced Costs and Costly Mistakes

Just as language barriers can cause safety issues, it can also result in errors and potentially expensive mistakes.  In fact this was mentioned as a primary motivation for a warehouse I previously assisted, as they expressed the need to offer English classes to their employees.  Enhanced language proficiency means less misunderstandings and fewer errors.  According to the National Safety Council, a worker injury costs companies an average of $38,000 in direct costs, and about $150,000 per accident in total costs.

Increased Productivity

Language barriers can impede workflow efficiency and collaboration leading to inefficiencies.  They can give rise to misunderstandings that disrupt operations and require additional time to clarify instructions.  As a result, valuable time is wasted on providing extra explanations to overcome language-related obstacles. Providing job-specific English classes help reduce such misunderstandings and increase productivity,  enabling the non-native employees to carry out their tasks more efficiently. 

Overall, providing English classes tailored to the warehousing industry has a positive impact on communication throughout the entire workforce and eliminates frustrations stemming from communication gaps, misunderstandings, and the need to repeatedly address topics.  Through the invaluable opportunity of observing the employees in their workspaces and engaging in conversations with their team leads, I have gained important insights into the intricate dynamics of the warehousing environment.  From understanding their daily operations, I was provided with a deeper understanding of the specific language requirements essential for the employees to excel in their roles, and from there, I built that into the program to ensure a more effective work-related language program.  From personal observations, I have noticed notable progress in employees’ communication skills within even the initial eight weeks of the program.  Initially timid and insecure about their language ability (or the lack of), the employees had become more comfortable in actively asking questions, demonstrating enthusiasm for learning, volunteering to role play, and feeling more comfortable in their ability to learn.  One warehouse supervisor expressed to me that due to the success of the previous programs, they were able to transition all but one member of the last group of employees from temporary employment status to full-time permanent position. However, they did not give up on that one employee, and they have enrolled her again in the third program.  


Banker, S. (2021). Warehouse Labor Woes Are Worse Than Ever. Forbes. Retrieved from

Solomon, M. (2022). Prologis: Warehouse Vacancy Rates to remain at All-Time Lows in 2022.  Freightwaves. Retrieved from

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.). Employment and Wage Estimates by Occupation: Occupation Code 493. Retrieved from

National Safety Council. (n.d.). Work Injury Costs. Injury Facts. Retrieved from