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Minnesota: Somali language classes for Mankatoans? SCC says "haa"

By Mark Fischenich [email protected]
Sunday October 7, 2018

Garaad Muse teaches numbers of the Somali language during a class at South Central College. SCC is the first state college in the state university system to offer a Somali course. Photo by Jackson Forderer

NORTH MANKATO — A diverse set of foreign languages are taught at area colleges, but until last month they didn't include one of the languages most frequently spoken in the region.

Students in various courses at Minnesota State University could say there are at least huit, acht, ocho, atte, atta, sahdogan, nishwaaswi and "bay" language options available — depending on whether they're enrolled in French, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dakota, Ojibwe or Chinese.

Traveling up Highway 169 to Gustavus Adolphus College or Highway 60 to St. Olaf and Carleton colleges, students could add Japanese, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew to their list of choices.

Starting this semester, thanks to instructor Garaad Muse's recent lesson, students at South Central College could announce in Somali that there are now "afar iyo toban" languages offered within "lixdan" miles of Mankato. The newest offerings are right in Mankato-North Mankato — Ojibwe at MSU and Somali across the Minnesota River at SCC.

"I'm very glad," said Fanah Adam, a Somali American who is an admissions adviser and designated student officer for international students at SCC. "That's kind of my dream."

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Adam isn't alone in expressing pride that SCC is the first college in the region — the first in the Minnesota state colleges and universities system — to offer Somali. After all, it's either the third or fourth most spoken language in the state, behind only English, Spanish and, possibly, Hmong. Focusing more tightly on Mankato and North Mankato, Somali is easily the third most used language, according to census statistics.

"The opportunity to offer this course is exciting for South Central College but exciting for the community as well," said Judy Shultz, dean of liberal arts and sciences.

Maybe most excited of all is Adam, who designed the course curriculum and has been working for five years to bring the class to the North Mankato campus. Originally, Adam was going to teach the course starting in 2014, but there was little advance notice it would be offered and not enough students signed up.

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