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Covington city employees learn Spanish as Hispanic community continues to grow

Covington city employees learn Spanish
Posted at 8:02 PM, Nov 21, 2022

COVINGTON, Ky. — The City of Covington is skipping the middleman when it comes to language barriers between city workers and Spanish-speaking residents.

Nine city employees are spending eight weeks learning to read and speak Spanish, an idea that came from the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative after a solid waste employee had trouble communicating with a local business owner.

“We just kind of brainstormed and thought, ‘We need to get some Spanish lessons,'” said human resources manager Stacey Hoeter. “So I did some leg work and found some resources.”

The initial program is being offered through Silva Languages, LLC in Florence.

The city’s goal is to make sure residents who speak Spanish can communicate with employees and get important questions answered more efficiently.

It's not the first time the city has tried to break down language barriers. In April, the city took steps to translate vital forms on its website that homeowners or future homeowners may need. They’re hoping the work being done shows how inclusive Covington is.

At the time, the city's federal grants manager Jeremy Wallace said the city had more than 1,000 people who were not fully fluent in English "and frankly that count is probably low."

Reid Yearwood, who runs Esperanza — a resource center for the Latino/Hispanic community, said the changes show the city's commitment to inclusivity.

“We're just passionate about not only making Covington better, but everywhere,” said Hoeter. “I think we are kind of opening the eyes of a lot of folks who have been here for a while who might be a little hesitant to speak Spanish or open to change but I think we are kind of peeling back on those layers.”

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