Normandale World Languages Department Introduces Somali Language and Culture Courses

By Jen Bouchard - World Languages Instructor

Beginning in fall semester 2019, Normandale Community College students will have the opportunity to take Somali language and culture courses. Normandale is the first community college in the nation to offer a full five-course Somali area studies program of this kind.

This will include two semesters of five-credit Somali language courses (SMLI 1100 and SMLI 1200) and a three-credit Somali culture course (SMLI 1111) focused on building students' intercultural competence.

The department plans to grow the program by implementing second-year language courses (SMLI 2100 and SMLI 2200) in the 2020-21 academic year.

Experienced local educator Said Garaad joined the department to design and teach the new courses that will be beneficial for students across a wide range of disciplines, including both academic and career-focused areas.

"Learning another language and culture is one of the most important investments considering today's rapidly increasing global economy," said Garaad. "Language connects us to other cultures and deepens our appreciation of the traditions, foods, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. I am honored to be the instructor of Somali language and culture classes at Normandale."

Minnesota is home to one-third of all Somalis in the U.S., making it the largest Somali community in the country. Approximately 40,000 Somali-Americans reside in the state.

"The decision to create a Somali area students program was a direct response to student interest and local workforce needs," explains International Experience Center Coordinator and World Languages faculty member Jen Bouchard. "Our Somali-American community is such an important part of our state and our community."

Students have had a positive reaction to the addition of these course additions. "As a student who is a part of the Somali community here at Normandale, it makes me happy and heard knowing that my community is being represented in the courses that are being offered," says Normandale Program Board Public Relations Chair and student Naimo Osman. "I'm grateful that we are able to recognize our diversity on campus in ways that aren't just statistics, but through an interactive and educational model."

The design and implementation of the Somali area studies program was supported by a Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Office (UISFL) U.S. Department of Education grant. The Normandale World Languages Department also offers courses in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.