Language barrier a struggle for local families - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Language barrier a struggle for local families

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- The city of Waterloo has a diverse population.  At the beginning of this decade, there were more than 67,000 residents in the city, with about 3,500 of those being Bosnians and around 2,000 Hispanics.  Coming to America can provide great opportunities for minorities.  But it can also come with great challenges.

Like so many immigrants, Alexander Espinoza came to the United States in search of a better life.

"I want to be part of the American dream, you know," Espinoza said.

Espinoza moved from Honduras to the American Southwest more than a decade ago.  But slowly, he realized that life across the border was much more difficult than he ever imagined.  That's because he couldn't speak English.

"When I got here, it was like everyone was talking Chinese because I don't understand what they were saying," said Espinoza.

So he forced himself to learn the language.

"You struggle at the beginning.  But eventually, you pick up and do well," Espinoza said.

After becoming proficient in English, Espinoza headed north to Iowa.  He brought along his new wife, Jocabeth, and found work with Tyson Foods in Waterloo.  He now works for John Deere, and he's expanded his family to include three children.  Espinoza is teaching his kids to speak both Spanish and English, so they'll know their language roots, while also being able to easily adapt to the country they live in.

"In the future, I don't want my kids to struggle like I did," he said.

Espinoza's wife still struggles with English, but she is learning a lot from her children and husband.  It's a battle this family knows is a continual challenge for many families right here in Waterloo.

"Sometimes I see people at Wal-Mart and they try to pay for their groceries, but sometimes they don't understand what the cashier is saying to them.  You know you can see that and think about how it's difficult sometimes coming from another country.  You don't know anything they're talking about," Espinoza said.

But Espinoza encourages fellow immigrants not to give up, and to work hard at speaking the language of the country that's given them a new lease on life.

Espinoza's hard work at learning the language has paid off, as he recently became a U.S. citizen. 

 

There are a number of agencies in Eastern Iowa that work to help immigrants settle into life in America.  One of those agencies is the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids.  It offers an adult education program, with free lessons for adults on topics ranging from basic math to reading, and preparation for the US citizenship test.  Over the past year, more than 250 people have enrolled in those programs.

The McAuley Center also has an immigrant and refugee assistant on staff.  To learn more, call (319) 363-4993.  You can also visit its website. 

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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