Archived Story

Neeley aids agency, customers with bi-lingual background

Published 8:01am Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Cole Insurance’s newest employee Lisa Neeley works on giving those who only speak Spanish a chance to know all of their insurance options. | Nathan Strickland/FCT


Some people believe the English language to be the hardest language in the world to learn, but if a person has spoken English their entire life, what would the next hardest language be?

Northwest Alabama has grown to become very diverse with many different languages and here in Franklin County, Spanish seems to rank second on the list to learn to help break down existing language barriers in the community.

Lisa Neeley of Cole Insurance in Russellville grew-up with English being her primary language, but once she reached working age she realized having a secondary language could become a vital tool in the job market.

As a result of working in several different areas, exposing herself to the Spanish-speaking population and taking the time to “self-teach” herself a new language, Neeley has been able to speak Spanish fluently for about 18 years and believes her abilities have helped her beat the odds in a now slumping economy.

Neeley said she believes exposing herself to the different cultural communities actually helped more than taking structured Spanish classes.

“People who attend classes in a structured environment learn more of a formal Spanish,” Neeley said.

“The formal teachings may help in some areas, but here almost all of the Spanish-speaking communities have more of a informal Spanish which is not taught in a class setting.”

Neeley said there are over 36 Spanish dialects   in Guatamala alone and even though she has been speaking the language for many years there have been times where she has had to ask for help.

“I admit I have had to look for an interpreter with some of the dialects because there is no way you could learn all of them,” she said.

“It would take way too many years to learn all of the different dialects in the Spanish language.”

Neeley said she hasn’t ran into those type of problems often and believes she does pretty well communicating with the Hispanic community that has settled here in Franklin County.

Neeley said there are several countries with multiple Spanish dialects she has not been exposed to, but she is always up for learning something new and believes she learns a little more every time she hears someone with a different a Spanish background.

Neeley said she will attempt to communicate with anyone and does her best to make people who don’t speak English feel comfortable forming a bridge of communication, supplying them with the information they are not able to comprehend.

Neeley currently serves as a receptionist at Cole Insurance, but will soon be attending two classes in Huntsville to become a fully licensed agent.

“I’ve never done this type of work as far as insurance is concerned,” she said.

“But I love working with the public. I always have and I think my background in Spanish will make me a useful asset to the company as far as communicating with the Hispanic community and helping them understand what is available for them.

Neeley’s boss, licensed insurance agent Undrea Gonzalez, said Neeley’s Spanish-speaking ability should aid in the companies success.

“I believe it is going to help tremendously,” Gonzalez said.

“I think it will definitely draw more people here because now we have the capability to communicate when clients who speak Spanish come in and we will be able to supply their needs more efficiently.”

This week marks Neeley’s second week of employment at the agency as she looks for a bright future in her insurance career.

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