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Language learners demonstrate their progress

Friday, May 18, 2012
By Robb Murray

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MANKATO — When it was time to share pieces of culture, Amina Jama was shy at first.

But eventually, she and another Somali woman in the class started to sing a snippet of a song about their home country’s flag. And the assembled guests applauded.

Then Jama started singing again, this time by herself. And after a few bars, the rest of the Somali immigrants in the room joined in. It was a serendipitous few seconds as they sung a song about the value of Somalis sticking together.

Jama and 15 others gathered at the Lincoln Community Center in Mankato Thursday to show what they’ve learned in the past eight weeks. They read brief writings they’d done and went around the room reading passages from children’s books to those who had come to witness their progress.

They read simple passages — such as the Sudanese woman who read a Capstone Press book about plumbers — to show they’re on their way to acquiring the skills they’ll need to be successful in the United States.

How successful?

Gladys Frydendall is one of the paid staff members for the program. But she started out as one of its students.

She’s originally from Paraguay and came to Adult Basic Education to both volunteer and learn to speak English better. She graduated from the program and stuck with it as an employee.

Frydendall said she’s seen many students of the classes move on and use the skills they’ve gained to land paying jobs.

And some use the skills for other reasons.

Jama and her husband have seven children, one of which has a congenital heart defect and needs a lot of medical attention.

“I need English,” she said. “I need to be able to tell the doctor what’s happening to my son in English.”

Near the end of the ceremony is when they invited members of the class to sing or dance. After two pairs of singers, one Somali and one Sudanese, a Russian woman got up to contribute.

Liudmila Budnyaya, the mother of Svetlana Munt — the Russian woman murdered by Joel Munt two years ago in Rasmussen Woods — began to dance and sing.

The people who gathered began to clap in rhythm, and Budnyaya smiled, singing a song from her homeland where she used to be a teacher, and where she used to live with her daughter.


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