Somali Heritage Language Program launched in Minneapolis public schools

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Minneapolis Public Schools are launching Somali Heritage Language Program to ensure Somali students know and understand their language and culture. (Minneapolis Public Schools)

A new effort is underway in Minneapolis public schools to ensure that Somali students know and understand their language and culture.

“There is no shame in being bilingual,” said Deqa Muhidin, the district MPS program facilitator. “It’s an asset and we want them to celebrate it.”

MPS says there are around 4,000 students in their school system who identify as Somali, but many do not know their native language or are discouraged from using it in school. The district will launch a Somali heritage language program on Friday to teach them greetings and conversational phrases they can use in their everyday lives.

“Often children do everything to fit in and that often means giving up parts of their culture and this has led to an identity crisis,” Muhidin said.

Minneapolis South High School already has a Somali language program for grades 9 to 12 students. The district will add similar classes at Lyndale Community School, Anne Sullivan School and Heritage Academy, which the program developers say will make it the first Somali K-12 language program in North America.

“In this class, they can hear stories in Somali, learn to read in the Somali alphabet,” Muhidin said. “We hope that by learning Somali they can support their other universities which they learn in English.”

Muhidin hopes learning their mother tongue shows Somali students how rich their cultural heritage is.

“I think it’s a wonderful program,” she said. “I think it’s a legacy. I hope we continue in the state of Minnesota and I hope other schools will replicate this.”


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