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CALGARY: Program launched for Somali youth to learn Somali language

Somali Youth League Society’s language classes bridge communication gap in families

Imagine not being able to communicate with your family members because you can’t speak the same language.

This is the reality for the 15 or so families who attended the opening night of Somali language classes at Pineridge School in northeast Calgary on Jan. 28.

Mohamed Omar, manager of the Somali Youth League Society, said “Most of the adults involved with the society are first generation Somalis.”

“Most of our children don’t even know one word of Somali.

“They all speak English. They are at school for eight hours and when they come home, they watch TV or go on the Internet. Everything is in English.”

The Somali Youth League Society — a volunteer-run organization — has been establishing itself with the Somali community for two years.Naji AlisalahChildren playing with Naji Alisalah, one of the physical education instructors with the Somali Youth League Society.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

The City of Calgary has helped subsidize the society by paying for the rental of Pineridge School, allowing them to provide programs three days a week, including soccer teams for young adults ranging from 18 to 24 years old, as well as physical education classes and homework groups for children.

The society created free Somali language classes after hearing about the communication barriers families faced on a daily basis. About 30 children who are involved in the after school programs, attended opening night.

“The parents came together and said ‘We really need help,'” Omar said.

“A lot of parents are asking for this program because there is no Somali language program in the city,” he said. “Of all the children participating in the after school programs with the Somali Youth League Society, “90 per cent of (their) parents speak Somali.”

Radwan Houssein, father of two, said that although he is able to speak to his kids in both Somali and English, he finds that it is easier to “communicate in English, as it’s easier for his children” to understand.Ahmed AhmedAhmed Ahmed, president of the Somali Youth League Society, presents a certificate to Amina Oflen, the Somali language instructor with the Somali Youth League Society on Jan. 28.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

“It’s good for the Somali community to have this (language) program and it’s good to have this program for our kids,” he said.

Amina Oflen, the society’s Somali language instructor, said: “I feel bad that kids can’t understand what you say in Somali. Their parents speak Somali and they are lost. The parents and kids don’t understand each other anymore.”

Omar said that he hopes the language classes will help build a foundation and a stronger Somali community in Calgary, in order to encourage communication in the Somali language.

For more information on the Somali language classes and registration, contact the Somali Youth League Society at (403) 383–8426.

csato@cjournal.ca

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