LEWISTON — Lewiston Adult Education is offering two language classes titled Conversational Somali in late February due to demand.

The high interest “is exciting, but it’s not a
surprise,” Adult Education Director Eva Giles said. The last time a Somali language class was offered was in 2006.

After the first class filled up quickly, a second was offered and that was filled by Friday, said Adult Education Community Education Coordinator Jessica Crabtree. A third class is not being offered.

“I’ve had folks calling every semester asking for it. I had to find an instructor,” Crabtree said. People taking the class are social service providers or work for L.L. Bean and other businesses that work with Somalis, she said.

Two of the students will be Lewiston Police Department
officers William Rousseau and Thomas Murphy, who want to communicate better with the population, said Sgt. Marc
Robitaille of the Community Resource Team.

Police have been working to learn about the Somalis’ history — from their homeland and civil war to their travels that have brought them to the Twin Cities. The goal is to enroll more officers in similar classes.

Meanwhile, the two enrolled officers will share what they’ve learned
with others in the department, Robitaille said.

The classes will be taught by Abdi Musa, the Somali community relations employee for the English Language Learning Office in the Lewiston School Department.

Susan Martin, director of the office, said it was nice so many want to know more about the Somali language. “People just want to be able to converse without an interpreter on a basic level,” Martin said. “People feel that’s a more friendly and trustful relationship when they can talk themselves.” Knowing basic words would help build relationships, she said.

Ismail Ahmed, who runs STTAR Consultancy Services in Lewiston, said he was pleased with the interest.

“Misunderstanding within the community is mostly brought by lack of language” and different cultural perceptions. More people able to communicate “will greatly bridge the gap of misunderstanding,” Ahmed said. “Imagine all the information that the service providers would like to pass on” without interpreters.

The class will teach conversational language, some history and culture, including Somali clothing and food. At the end of the class, students will be offered a Somali meal.

Students will pay $42 for the class, plus $12 for the lab, which covers the food, Giles said.


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