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Spanish as a second language. (around campus).

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Hablas espanol? Some North Iowans are learning to do just that through North Iowa Area Community College's Occupational Spanish classes so they can communicate better with their Hispanic employees and customers.

The college began offering the classes in the fall of 2001.

"I think there's a definite need," said Bill Burdick, management and professional development coordinator at the college.

In some cases, such as medical emergencies, Burdick said the ability to communicate means a difference between life and death.

Hopefully Hispanic people will be encouraged to learn English when they see their employers learning to speak Spanish, Burdick said.

The occupational Spanish courses help people learn to speak the language during 16 hours of business situations. No previous experience with Spanish is required.

The instructors teach phrases commonly used in business situations.

Classes are geared toward different occupational areas. The program includes modules for law enforcement, medicine, retail sales, construction and manufacturing.

The vocabulary taught in each class depends on the occupation the participants are in. Those in manufacturing learn safety terms. while receptionists in medical or dental offices learn how to make appointments and ask about insurance in Spanish.

Eric Wagner, a dentist, said he took the class because a fair number of his patients speak Spanish.

"They really appreciate it if you know how to speak it a little." he said.

Wagner noted most of his Hispanic patients can speak a little English, so between his Spanish and their English they manage to communicate pretty well.

Wagner spent three years in Puerto Rico when he was in the military, but he said he didn't do a very good job of learning Spanish while he was there. He said the class at North Iowa helped him improve his vocabulary.

The Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico also differs somewhat from the Spanish spoken in Mexico, where most of Wagner's Hispanic patients originate.

Cerro Gordo County Jail Administrator Shad Stoeffler and 10 Cerro Gordo County correctional officers took an occupational Spanish courses at North Iowa.

Stoeffler said the sheriffs office still uses interpreters to communicate with Spanish-speaking people, but now at least they're not needed to book prisoners.
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Publication:Community College Week
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Jul 22, 2002
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