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English lessons annoy net cafe owners

FOREIGNERS visiting local Internet cafes might encounter fewer language problems as staff at the city's more than 1,400 net cafes are being required to take English classes. The city is promoting the classes in preparation for the 2010 World Expo.

However, the training is not being provided free by the city. Every participant will need to pay a tuition fee of 400 yuan (US$58.50), a requirement that has aroused great debate among local cafe owners.

The first batch of 144 owners and staff from 36 Internet cafes in Xuhui District began a two-day training course covering English tips, information about the Expo and customer service techniques yesterday.

Another batch of 144 staff members in the district will begin the course tomorrow. Other districts will offer the training sessions before October.

"Every cafe should send four staff members on the training course, including the legal representative, the owner, a Web administrator and a waiter," said Ai Hao, assistant secretary of the Internet Service Association of Shanghai.

All participants will sit an exam after the training course.

"I can't imagine how can we master everything on the course in just two days," said the manager of an Internet cafe in Changning District surnamed Weng. "Most of our employees only have a high school diploma.

"In some cases, all they know are the 26 letters of the English alphabet."

Weng said it was usually unnecessary for staff to communicate with foreign customers. He said if there was a problem with communication, staff could ask a familiar customer to help them talk to foreigners.


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