Helping to bridge language barriers

Helping people who speak different languages understand each other may be easier with a little one-on-one communication.

In an attempt to bridge language barriers between Spanish and English speakers, a group called Comunidad Integrada -- Integrated Community -- is launching an effort to place English speakers in Hispanics' homes to prompt conversation and, potentially, encourage mutual understanding.

A meeting Wednesday invites the public to learn more about how people can get involved.

"We are proactively trying to promote integration," said Summer Laws, an organizer with Comunidad Integrada. "We want to break down the barriers of not knowing. It leads to misunderstanding."

According to a series of planning meetings aimed at tackling the issue of integrating Spanish and English speakers, the tactic of teaching in the home surfaced as one of the most effective strategies, Laws said.

Indeed, teaching in the home environment makes sense for Hispanics, said Father Jose Sáenz of Craig's St. Michael Catholic Church.

"Hispanics are very comfortable in their houses," he said. "They are more relaxed there and don't feel comfortable in buildings. They feel it's too formal and they're not sure if their children are allowed."

Sáenz said he thought the program could be successful to bridge a variety of cultural barriers. He said North Americans tend to think of Hispanics as being solely from Mexico. However, Hispanics in Craig and Moffat County also hail from many areas in Central and South America and bring with them a variety of traditions and dialects.

"This will help the community be themselves and be open to others in the Hispanic community. They have lots of traditions," Sáenz said. "Getting people involved will help."

Laws said the need to integrate Spanish and English speakers is great because the area's Hispanic community is expected to grow.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of Hispanics living in Moffat County will increase by 4 percent this year, comprising a total of 10.5 percent of the county's population.

"The big thing we're looking for is people to help out in Craig," she said.

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