Spanish catching on in Chambersburg

October 23, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With Chambersburg's growing Hispanic population, local business and agency employees are attempting to break through the language barrier by learning to speak Spanish.

Ten people are learning to speak basic Spanish in a free course held every Thursday morning at the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg.

Funded by a multicultural grant, a second 12-week course, which is starting to fill up, will be offered to the community in February.


"I would like to be able to speak to our Spanish-speaking clients or maybe understand enough to direct them to the right place," said Dawn Stinson, a student who is an employee at Keystone Community Health Center where she said she works with quite a few Spanish-speaking people.

Six weeks into the class, the all-female group has learned the alphabet and is starting to put together simple sentences and phrases.

Though enthusiastic about learning another language, the students admitted it's not easy.

The class started out with 22 people and the number has dwindled to under half of that.

"There's a lot to learn. To learn Spanish is not just `good morning,' or `good afternoon.' It's not just one or two classes," said Graziela Terrazas, course instructor, who also teaches Spanish at Wilson College.

Terrazas, a native of Peru, told the class that she spoke no English 30 years ago when she moved to Chambersburg with her husband.

Practice is the key to learning any language, said Terrazas, who said she learned English from a teacher and by reading a lot.

"It's a little confusing," said Lisa Johnson, a legal advocate with Women In Need Victim Services in Chambersburg.

But Johnson said she plans to stick with it and wants to continue studying the language because the victim services organization needs to be able to communicate with its growing number of Hispanic clients.

Advocates often find interpreters for Hispanic clients when they have to appear in Franklin County Court, she said. The court does not provide translators for victims, she said.

Coyle Free Librarian Pat Reuse said she's taking advantage of the course because "we're serving more and more Hispanics in the library."

The library is expanding its collection of adult and children's books in the Spanish language to serve the population, she said.

Calling it a "missionary assignment," a group of five Jehovah's Witnesses said they enrolled in the class so they can teach the Hispanic population about the Bible.

"We're finding a lot of Spanish people who would like to communicate, but can't," said Pat Pernitza.

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