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Meet William Martz, Using Language to Connect

SAGE Community

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At SAGE, we believe in teamwork and inclusion. William Martz, Assistant Food Service Director at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, is a perfect example of our commitment to leadership and extreme ownership because he broadened his knowledge of Spanish and French in order to communicate better with his team.

“With the growing diversity of the workforce in the nation, I do believe that multilingualism will become a necessity in order to operate most kitchens in the hospitality industry,” William said.

William, who’s been with SAGE since April 2023, previously worked at a Nashville hotel as the sous chef. While there, he had an employee from Togo, a West African country where the official language is French. To create more cohesion among the team, William began to teach himself French, starting with beginner lessons online and learning the basics like the alphabet and different accents. Then he invested in some workbooks to practice grammar and build vocabulary and used apps to help with pronunciation. For everyday practice, he tried to immerse himself into the French language by reading the “Le Monde” French newspaper, listening to French musicians, and watching French TV.

By the time he left in early 2023, William wasn’t 100% fluent but was able to communicate with the employee completely in French throughout the day. This improved the employee’s performance, showcased his personality at work, and allowed him to learn more by eliminating the language barrier. The employee is now the lead banquet cook at the hotel, with aspirations of climbing higher.

In addition to French, William has also strengthened his Spanish skills to improve communication among his team. When he started with SAGE at Montgomery Bell, he said the team was very excited with the conversational Spanish he was able to use. “I would say two-thirds of my day I’m communicating in Spanish. And the interactions work both ways. Sometimes the Team Member has a question about English pronunciation or grammar and will ask to be corrected in English. So, the longer we work with each other, both of our skills improve in both languages,” he said.

For William, finding ways to effectively communicate with his team is crucial to running a smooth operation. Though effective communication doesn’t always demand learning other languages, he said speaking in someone’s first language “gives them a comfort that they probably don’t get to experience in the American working world as often as they’d like.”

He’s excited to continue getting to know the Montgomery Bell community and finding ways to effectively communicate with his team!

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