LAWTON, Okla._Lawton Parks and Recreation is offering free language classes for people any age wanting to learn English or Spanish.
The new program started September 14 and was created to bridge the language barrier in our growing multi-cultural community. The classes are held every Monday from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and every Tuesday from 5:45 p.m. until 6:45 p.m. at the Owens Multipurpose Center, 1405 SW 11th Street in Lawton. The classes usually have between 10 and 15 people, so there is plenty room for anyone wanting to join in.
Irma Robledo and her husband, who is a pastor, first settled in New Mexico a couple of years ago and recently moved to Oklahoma. She said the road to learning English has been a hard one to travel. But, in this class, she's found others to embark on that journey with her.
"I need English. For me. It's for citizenship," Robledo said.
Robledo has been attending the course for a couple of weeks. She says she makes time for it because it's the only way she will be able to become a citizen, and find a better job.
"Everybody asks me looking work 'You speak English?' No. 'No working for you,'" Robledo said.
She says where she's from, she has never had to learn until now.
"In New Mexico. New Mexico no need to speak English. Everybody Spanish. So, me no learn it. I moved to Oklahoma and I need," Robledo explained.
She is not alone. Pat Piece say she feels a strong needs to learn another language to communicate in this community.
"There are many different cultures and nationalities that are in Lawton now, as opposed to all those years ago when I grew up. And it's just going to be nice to speak to them in their native tongue," Piece said.
But the cost of learning a language is one not many can afford.
"I've been wanting to learn for quite some time. But being a low income person, I couldn't afford to take classes that are handed out at Votech. So when saw in the press that these were free classes, I said 'good.' Because I'm more than willing to learn, I just couldn't afford to learn," Piece said.
Piece also believes this will help her in her field of work.
"I volunteer in the Microsoft community and it's lots of fun to be able to help people when they have computer issues. If I could speak in a new native tongue, I'd be more of an asset," Piece said.
There is also a newly formed cultural understanding among students.
"I think the difference in America is that we all speak English with different accents, but we all speak English. But theirs are different dialects. So, the usage of the word will change among dialects and you have to be real careful with that is what I'm understanding," Piece explained.
The students say they have peers in their class from all different countries, including Peru, Chile, Mexico and the United States.