Spanish class helps adults connect | News, Sports, Jobs

ABOVE: Karla Olson goes over materials with participants of a beginning Spanish class inside a classroom at the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus (SMEC) in Fairmont. The class is for adults and offered through Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.

FAIRMONT– A beginning Spanish class for adults, offered through Fairmont Community Education and Recreations, has participants who want to learn the basics of the language for a number of reasons. The class is being taught by Karla Olson.

Olson is also the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Fairmont Area School District. Originally from Mexico, Olson has been in the area for about 14 years and previously worked as a social worker at Human Services of Faribault and Martin County.

She explained that she had been approached by former CER Director Roni Dauer, who had asked if she’d be interested in teaching a Spanish class.

“I was a little hesitant because a language is so broad,” Olson said.

When asked if she could teach just an introductory class to the language, Olson agreed and the class was first offered last year. Olson said this year she has more students, which she’s excited about.

“Between last year and this year I’ve had people ask me if I would be teaching that class. I’ve seen more and more interest,” Olson said.

As for the reasons people sign up for the class, Olson said they vary. She said some people have extended family or they married into a Spanish-speaking family.

“Other people love to travel. People in my previous class vacationed to Mexico or the Caribbean so to learn more so they could talk to the locals,” Olson explained.

One person currently in the class, Joanne Eastlund, said she first started taking Spanish classes online during Covid to keep her brain stimulated and give her something to do. She found out about the CER class through the brochure that’s mailed out to households.

“As a healthcare worker, I want to be able to communicate with all of my patients and make them feel comfortable,” said Connie Koch, a lab tech at Mayo in Fairmont.

Olson said that’s true for others in the class as they have co-workers, patients or clients who are Spanish-speaking and want to learn the basics of the language to better communicate with them.

“We’re seeing more of the Hispanic population in the area. A lot of people are seeing the need of being able to communicate with the Hispanic population,” Olson said.

She said there are some interpreters in the area, but as the population becomes diverse, more help will be useful to have. As Olson pointed out, Spanish is the second most-spoken language behind English in the country.

CER Director Stephanie Busiahn noted that at one point during the evening of classes, there are Spanish-speaking adults upstairs in the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus building learning English during an Adult Basic Education class, and English-speaking adults in a lower level classroom learning Spanish .

“As our community changes and shifts, I think it’s a cool opportunity for us to be able to offer an intro to Spanish class. We’re trying to do our part to position our community to embrace change and growth as we move towards a more inclusive community,” Busiahn said.

Participants in the class meet for an hour and a half once a week over the course of six weeks. Olson said to master a language takes years, which is why they’re starting small with the basics.

“I recommend that they keep being exposed to the language because exposure really helps,” Olson said.

She’s encouraging them to watch TV and movies in Spanish and said even with the subtitles on in English, just hearing the language will help with pronunciation and absorption.

The small fee for the class covers materials. Participants were given a book, Spanish in 12 days, which covers the basics they’re going over in the class.

Olson said she’s also had people reach out to her to ask if she can teach a class for children and it’s something she’s talking about with Busiahn. She pointed out that high school aged youth can take classes in school so adults and younger students need something, too.

“I’ve seen interest so maybe we’ll explore that as well. I’m happy to see the interest,” Olson said.

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