MPS launching Somali Heritage Language program |

MPS launching Somali Heritage Language program

Brittney Ermon
Created: August 13, 2021 07:09 PM

The Twin Cities metro is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the country.

Now, Minneapolis Public Schools is launching a new course that spotlights the Somali language and culture.

"I felt isolated from learning about my culture," said Jama Ahmed, a Minneapolis Public Schools student.

"I would just feel lonely at times learning about other cultures and not being able to see my own," he added.

Growing up, Ahmed said representation was few and far between. The 15-year-old grew up in MPS and took Arabic classes in elementary school but the Somali language wasn't an option.

"I would get to connect with my culture at a young age and I would be more advanced in it, and I wouldn't have to struggle so much learning it at an older age," he said.

Words spoken in Somali households will now have a permanent place in MPS classrooms.

"Ayeeya means grandma, ayeeyo means granddad," Muhidin Warfa, the multilingual executive director at MPS, said.

High school students already have access to the course.

"We know a second language always has cognitive benefits for people who speak multiple languages," Warfa said.

He says language also builds trust, the syllables bridging gaps and connecting the community through culture.

"Any other students who would like to participate are welcome and we encourage the integration. The more people who know the language, the better," Warfa added.

"We don't have a lot of those opportunities in America now. We have to learn off our people and parents, but if we have a whole class dedicated to it, I think we'll learn a lot more," Ahmed said.

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