Language Matters, Warsaw Adult Ed. Helping Language Learners In The Community

June 18, 2024 at 4:57 p.m.
Lucas Fonseca, Language Matters co-founder and CEO, speaks to the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday. Pictured seated are county attorney Ed Ormsby and Commissioner Cary Groninger. Not pictured, but present, are Commissioners Brad Jackson and Bob Conley. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Lucas Fonseca, Language Matters co-founder and CEO, speaks to the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday. Pictured seated are county attorney Ed Ormsby and Commissioner Cary Groninger. Not pictured, but present, are Commissioners Brad Jackson and Bob Conley. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union

By DAVID L. SLONE Managing Editor

One can’t fully integrate into a society if they don’t understand the words in the world around them.
Tuesday, the Kosciusko County Commissioners heard from Lucas Fonseca, co-founder and CEO of Language Matters, and Leo Patiño, Warsaw Adult Education (WAE) director, about different ways they are helping English language learners become more a part of the local community.
“I’m really excited to be here to tell you a little bit about an initiative that has been helping a lot of people in our community, and we’re having good results,” Fonseca said.
About three years ago, he said, Language Matters conducted a study for the city of Warsaw on the Hispanic community in town. The idea was to better understand how the city could make certain services more accessible.
“We did that by getting information from both the Hispanic community and also the city departments. In doing that, we found a lot of alignment between both parties, and we were able to get information that allowed us to implement solutions that both sides determined they thought would help the community,” Fonseca explained.
He provided the commissioners with a packet of information, including an abstract of the final report that was sent to the city “showing that alignment between community members and city departments, and we used that information to implement solutions to support the community.”
Fonseca highlighted three services.
The first was cultural training in which Language Matters was able to train city employees and give them a little bit of an understanding about how the Hispanic culture works and contrasts with the culture here in the U.S.
The second service Language Matters offered was the translation of city documents.
“We took the time to go to every single city department and identify all of the customer-facing documents so that we can translate those and make sure that we can use them with the community,” he said. “We also wanted to make that more sustainable, so we offered that service, and now we’re able to translate at any point. Should any city employee need any translation for any reason, they can just email us and we can work with them to translate different things.”
They have translated different things like the CARES website to city invoices.
The third service, and the one he said he’s most excited about, is their call/informational center. It was implemented to function to work as an interpretation line for community members and the city of Warsaw.
“But, one thing that we started realizing when we implemented that solution is that a lot of services in our community connect at some point. So something that might be city becomes county quickly, or it could be state. People don’t know what’s what. This doesn’t just go for Spanish speakers, it happens for a lot of people in our community. So we’ve expanded the call center to work and to help us navigate people through the community and connect them with the resources that we have available in town,” Fonseca said.
Another reason he said he was before the commissioners Tuesday was because he wanted to “make sure that we can collaborate, that we can make known the services and initiatives that are underway. And that’s why I’ve been collaborating with local organizations, making sure that we can all be on the same page when it comes to this effort so that we can make these initiatives more efficient.”
The city has been Language Matters’ main partner, Fonseca said, with Mayor Jeff Grose mentioning it was difficult to serve the community when only city services were involved because all of the services connect.
“So my vision, and the reason I’m here today, is to make you aware of this initiative to see how we can hopefully collaborate so that we can help even more people,” he said.
Last month, he noted that the call center had over 100 interactions, with call topics varying from county and city issues to the BMV and local health system.
“We’re starting to see that as the service grows, everybody at every organization should be aware of it so that we can better collaborate and make this not just a city but a county initiative,” Fonseca said.
For more information on Language Matters, visit the website at www.languagemattersprograms.com.
Later in the meeting, Patiño approached the commissioners about the “other side of the coin” of what Fonseca had talked to them about.
“Well, that’s great that you’re translating this information into their language, but the other side of the coin is, how can we help them acclimate to the culture and start learning English?” Patiño said. “One aspect of adult education is English language learners. That’s available to anybody who is willing to learn English.”
He said they’re starting to see an increase in the Haitian community, who don’t all speak Spanish - some do - but speak French Creole.
“So, there’s that sort of language barrier there now that exists, but, to my point, one of my objectives is to grow the English language learner program extensively, to the point where we’re actually creating amazing gains,” he said.
Workforce Development pays for the salaries of WAE. Patiño said one of the things that WAE is doing is making sure that they’re having “amazing, accurate curriculum that can show level gains, from level one to level six.” Level six technically is a person who is fluent.
He said there are current efforts in the community, that are at no cost to the community, that are trying to teach people English - conversational, written and reading.
WAE services Kosciusko and Fulton counties and belongs to Region 2, which includes St. Joe, Elkhart and Marshall.
Patiño says he wants the community to be aware of adult education.
“I’m here to help. I’m here to be a resource and an asset to our community, in whichever way I can. I’m passionate about education and opportunity. ... We’re continuing efforts in making sure that all of our community in Kosciusko County, Warsaw and the surrounding communities have equitable access to all the resources so that we can thrive,” he stated.
Commissioner Brad Jackson said there’s way more opportunity for a person once they learn the language. “If you always need an interpreter, that really limits your opportunity, and I think sometimes when we make it easier to not learn the language, that it’s a detriment. Our country is a melting pot and my ancestors are German and they had to learn to speak English. We have to have one language, I think, as a nation. We’re all Americans. That’s the cool thing, we all came from some place different, but we’re all Americans,” he said.
Patiño talked about how ABC Industries in Winona Lake takes two hours of their work schedule to bring WAE in to teach their employees English at no cost to the employees. He said he’d love to be able to do that at other places.
“If there’s a need, we want to fill that need with our resources. Again, we’re funded by our tax dollars and the Department of Workforce Development, so we want to be in the room if there’s a need,” Patiño stated.
Commissioner Bob Conley said, “Teddy Roosevelt said we do our immigrants a great disservice by allowing them to come to this country and not becoming Americans in every way, learning our languages, our traditions and our way of life. If you come here and want to be an American, then you’re welcome. Like Brad said, it’s a melting pot. But if you want to come here to bring your language and your traditions from where you came from, you probably should have stayed there.”
Patiño said there’s two parts to that.
“I think that’s the amazing thing is that culturally, we are amazing, we bring a lot of benefits where we come from. Whether it be language, whether it be culture, whether it be food, there’s many important qualities that are important to be able to share. All of us have traditions and we show those traditions, whether it be over Thanksgiving or whether it be during Christmas time or any special occasion. I think not allowing for those traditions and that beautiful part of it to be shared, I think, is a travesty, but there should always be open space to be able to able to share that,” Patiño stated.

One can’t fully integrate into a society if they don’t understand the words in the world around them.
Tuesday, the Kosciusko County Commissioners heard from Lucas Fonseca, co-founder and CEO of Language Matters, and Leo Patiño, Warsaw Adult Education (WAE) director, about different ways they are helping English language learners become more a part of the local community.
“I’m really excited to be here to tell you a little bit about an initiative that has been helping a lot of people in our community, and we’re having good results,” Fonseca said.
About three years ago, he said, Language Matters conducted a study for the city of Warsaw on the Hispanic community in town. The idea was to better understand how the city could make certain services more accessible.
“We did that by getting information from both the Hispanic community and also the city departments. In doing that, we found a lot of alignment between both parties, and we were able to get information that allowed us to implement solutions that both sides determined they thought would help the community,” Fonseca explained.
He provided the commissioners with a packet of information, including an abstract of the final report that was sent to the city “showing that alignment between community members and city departments, and we used that information to implement solutions to support the community.”
Fonseca highlighted three services.
The first was cultural training in which Language Matters was able to train city employees and give them a little bit of an understanding about how the Hispanic culture works and contrasts with the culture here in the U.S.
The second service Language Matters offered was the translation of city documents.
“We took the time to go to every single city department and identify all of the customer-facing documents so that we can translate those and make sure that we can use them with the community,” he said. “We also wanted to make that more sustainable, so we offered that service, and now we’re able to translate at any point. Should any city employee need any translation for any reason, they can just email us and we can work with them to translate different things.”
They have translated different things like the CARES website to city invoices.
The third service, and the one he said he’s most excited about, is their call/informational center. It was implemented to function to work as an interpretation line for community members and the city of Warsaw.
“But, one thing that we started realizing when we implemented that solution is that a lot of services in our community connect at some point. So something that might be city becomes county quickly, or it could be state. People don’t know what’s what. This doesn’t just go for Spanish speakers, it happens for a lot of people in our community. So we’ve expanded the call center to work and to help us navigate people through the community and connect them with the resources that we have available in town,” Fonseca said.
Another reason he said he was before the commissioners Tuesday was because he wanted to “make sure that we can collaborate, that we can make known the services and initiatives that are underway. And that’s why I’ve been collaborating with local organizations, making sure that we can all be on the same page when it comes to this effort so that we can make these initiatives more efficient.”
The city has been Language Matters’ main partner, Fonseca said, with Mayor Jeff Grose mentioning it was difficult to serve the community when only city services were involved because all of the services connect.
“So my vision, and the reason I’m here today, is to make you aware of this initiative to see how we can hopefully collaborate so that we can help even more people,” he said.
Last month, he noted that the call center had over 100 interactions, with call topics varying from county and city issues to the BMV and local health system.
“We’re starting to see that as the service grows, everybody at every organization should be aware of it so that we can better collaborate and make this not just a city but a county initiative,” Fonseca said.
For more information on Language Matters, visit the website at www.languagemattersprograms.com.
Later in the meeting, Patiño approached the commissioners about the “other side of the coin” of what Fonseca had talked to them about.
“Well, that’s great that you’re translating this information into their language, but the other side of the coin is, how can we help them acclimate to the culture and start learning English?” Patiño said. “One aspect of adult education is English language learners. That’s available to anybody who is willing to learn English.”
He said they’re starting to see an increase in the Haitian community, who don’t all speak Spanish - some do - but speak French Creole.
“So, there’s that sort of language barrier there now that exists, but, to my point, one of my objectives is to grow the English language learner program extensively, to the point where we’re actually creating amazing gains,” he said.
Workforce Development pays for the salaries of WAE. Patiño said one of the things that WAE is doing is making sure that they’re having “amazing, accurate curriculum that can show level gains, from level one to level six.” Level six technically is a person who is fluent.
He said there are current efforts in the community, that are at no cost to the community, that are trying to teach people English - conversational, written and reading.
WAE services Kosciusko and Fulton counties and belongs to Region 2, which includes St. Joe, Elkhart and Marshall.
Patiño says he wants the community to be aware of adult education.
“I’m here to help. I’m here to be a resource and an asset to our community, in whichever way I can. I’m passionate about education and opportunity. ... We’re continuing efforts in making sure that all of our community in Kosciusko County, Warsaw and the surrounding communities have equitable access to all the resources so that we can thrive,” he stated.
Commissioner Brad Jackson said there’s way more opportunity for a person once they learn the language. “If you always need an interpreter, that really limits your opportunity, and I think sometimes when we make it easier to not learn the language, that it’s a detriment. Our country is a melting pot and my ancestors are German and they had to learn to speak English. We have to have one language, I think, as a nation. We’re all Americans. That’s the cool thing, we all came from some place different, but we’re all Americans,” he said.
Patiño talked about how ABC Industries in Winona Lake takes two hours of their work schedule to bring WAE in to teach their employees English at no cost to the employees. He said he’d love to be able to do that at other places.
“If there’s a need, we want to fill that need with our resources. Again, we’re funded by our tax dollars and the Department of Workforce Development, so we want to be in the room if there’s a need,” Patiño stated.
Commissioner Bob Conley said, “Teddy Roosevelt said we do our immigrants a great disservice by allowing them to come to this country and not becoming Americans in every way, learning our languages, our traditions and our way of life. If you come here and want to be an American, then you’re welcome. Like Brad said, it’s a melting pot. But if you want to come here to bring your language and your traditions from where you came from, you probably should have stayed there.”
Patiño said there’s two parts to that.
“I think that’s the amazing thing is that culturally, we are amazing, we bring a lot of benefits where we come from. Whether it be language, whether it be culture, whether it be food, there’s many important qualities that are important to be able to share. All of us have traditions and we show those traditions, whether it be over Thanksgiving or whether it be during Christmas time or any special occasion. I think not allowing for those traditions and that beautiful part of it to be shared, I think, is a travesty, but there should always be open space to be able to able to share that,” Patiño stated.

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