Saturday, July 17, 2004

Workplace Spanish class reflects Hispanic influx

By Natalie Morales
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - Area employees are learning Spanish to interact better with the increasing Hispanic population in Northern Kentucky.

Gateway Community and Technical College in Covington is offering workplace-use Spanish classes in August and September.

The five class options are for firefighter and emergency medical services, health care, human resources, police officers and 911 dispatchers, and school faculty.

"Folks want to communicate - that's the key to the whole thing," said Phil Accardi, Gateway's Business and Industrial Services workforce development liaison.

"We're trying to fit the needs folks have out there because our Hispanic population is growing in the area."

Each class focuses on Spanish vocabulary that people in a specific profession could use on a daily basis.

The firefighter/EMS and school faculty classes were offered in the spring and students in those classes said they learned a lot that they have already applied.

Carol Clements, Silver Grove School's nurse, said, "We had a student that came into our school who spoke no English."

Hardly being able to communicate with the student prompted her and a few other faculty members to enroll in the class.

"It made me feel like I could at least give him something he could be familiar with; and though I couldn't speak it fluently, I at least had a few words that I learned that I could use to talk to him."

Boone County had 1,702 Hispanic residents at the time of the last census in 2000. That is more than five times the 313 people counted in the 1990 census. Campbell County's Hispanic population increased from 277 to 765 people, and Kenton County's increased from 649 to 1,669.

"There's a large Latino population in Covington," said Dan Matthew, a firefighter/emergency medical technician for the Covington Fire Department. "Sometimes in our jobs, it's hard to communicate with people we're trying to work with if you don't speak their language."

Matthew took the firefighter Spanish class in the spring and said knowing even a little Spanish can make people feel more at ease.

"We focused a lot on pronunciation in the class," he said. "But even if I don't pronounce things exactly right, I think it really does comfort people to know you're trying, and they respect you more for trying."


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