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ABOVE: Karla Olson reviews materials with participants of a beginner’s Spanish class in a classroom at the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus (SMEC) at Fairmont. The course is for adults and is offered by Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.

FAIRMONT– A beginner’s Spanish course for adults, offered by Fairmont Community Education and Recreations, has participants who want to learn the basics of the language for a number of reasons. The class is 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 with Faribault and Martin County Social Services.

She explained that she was approached by former CER director Roni Dauer, who asked if she would be interested in teaching a Spanish lesson.

“I was a little hesitant because a tongue is so wide,” says Olson.

When asked if she could teach just an introductory language course, Olson agreed and the course was first offered last year. Olson said this year she has more students, which excites her.

“Between last year and this year, people asked me if I would teach this course. I saw more and more interest,” says Olson.

As for why people enroll in the course, Olson said they vary. She said some people have extended families or married into a Spanish-speaking family.

“The others like to travel. People in my previous class went on vacation to Mexico or the Caribbean, so they wanted to know more so they could talk to the locals,” Olson explained.

One person currently in the class, Joanne Eastlund, said she started taking online Spanish lessons during Covid to keep her brain stimulated and give her something to do. She learned about the CER class through the brochure mailed to households.

“As a healthcare professional, I want to be able to communicate with all my patients and put them at ease,” said Connie Koch, lab technician at Mayo at Fairmont.

Olson said that’s true for others in the class because they have colleagues, patients or clients who speak Spanish and want to learn the basics of the language to communicate better with them.

“We are seeing more of the Hispanic population in the area. A lot of people see the need to be able to communicate with the Hispanic population,” says Olson.

She said there are interpreters in the area, but as the population becomes more diverse, it will be helpful to have more help. 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 class night, there are Spanish-speaking adults upstairs in the Southern Minnesota Education Campus building learning English during a class. adult basic education, and English-speaking adults in a lower level class learning Spanish. .

“As our community changes and evolves, I think this is a great opportunity for us to be able to offer an introductory Spanish course. We try to do our part to position our community to embrace change and growth as we move towards a more inclusive community,” said Busiahn.

Class participants meet for an hour and a half once a week for six weeks. Olson said mastering a language takes years, which is why they start small with the basics.

“I recommend that they continue to be exposed to the language because the exposure really helps,” says Olson.

She encouraged them to watch TV and movies in Spanish and said that even with English subtitles, just hearing the language would help with pronunciation and absorption.

The small fee for the class covers the materials. Participants received a book, Spanish in 12 Days, which covers the basics they cover in class.

Olson said people have also reached out to her asking if she could teach the kids a class and that’s something she talks about with Busiahn. She pointed out that young people in secondary school can take lessons at school, so adults and young students also need something.

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

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