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A new initiative is helping Bowling Green municipal workers connect with Spanish-speaking residents

Bowling Green city employees practiced their Spanish language skills during the language workshop
Jacob Martin
/
WKU Public Radio
Bowling Green city employees practiced their Spanish language skills during the language workshop

A new Spanish-language program is being offered to Bowling Green municipal workers in an effort to improve communication with some of the area's non-English speaking residents.

A monthly Spanish learning workshop will be held at the Neighborhood and Community Services building for any of Bowling Green’s 400 full-time city staff. The goal of the initiative is to help city employees become more comfortable communicating with Spanish-speaking residents. The lessons target vocabulary and common phrases that municipal workers might find useful when interacting with the public.

City employees attending the class receive language instruction and pronunciation exercises from a Spanish-speaking instructor. Recordings from the lesson will also be provided to anyone who attends.

Leyda Becker, the International Community Liaison for Bowling Green, said the program is a response to inquiries she received from city staff.

“We thought it would be really beneficial for city employees,” Becker said. “We have made all the lessons independent of each other so it doesn't matter when you come or if you just come one time, you’ll still get something out of it.”

The workshop is free and will be held once a month, for the next four months at the Neighborhood and Community Services building. All Bowling Green municipal workers are welcome to join the lessons.

David Weisbrodt, a Bowling Green safety and risk manager, said it's helpful practicing a different language he might use in the future.

“I thought it would be helpful for me to learn Spanish to help with my job,” Weisbrodt said. “It will enable me to communicate maybe a little better with certain individuals that might not have English as their primary language.”

Bowling Green is home to a refugee resettlement agency and more than 100 languages are spoken throughout Warren County. Between 2011 and 2016 the county saw an 87% increase in the immigrant population. According to Becker, Bowling Green is still working to address the rapid influx of new residents.

“Language is certainly the largest obstacle because the majority of our immigrant, refugee population don’t speak English as their first language,” Becker said. “Maybe it would help a patron feel more welcomed into a city building if they were greeted by someone who was able to at least tell them in their own language, ‘Hello. How are you? Can I help you?’”

The next workshop will be in March. City workers interested in attending the one-hour workshops can learn more by contacting the Neighborhood Services office.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at Jacob.martin@wku.edu.