Dancing to better language skills
Jan 07, 2012 (Menafn - Moscow-Pullman Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Students in one classroom at Gladdish Community and Cultural Center will cantar (sing), danza (dance) and hablar (speak) their way to better knowledge.
Because here, they're not learning new words or new mathematical equations -- but a new language, with all the culture and experiences that come with it.
Jessica Cofler Suarez started the Pullman Language Center in December. Suarez teaches Spanish in the one-room business and schoolhouse, with students ranging from 4 years old to adult. The Argentina native has been teaching Spanish in the U.S. since the 1990s, and recently decided it was time to branch out into her own business.
"I have an educational background, and I'm well informed to teach Spanish," Suarez said in her classroom, hours before her first class of 4 to 7 year olds walked in. "Nobody around here could offer me a place to do it, so I started looking to find my own."
The young children in Suarez's class will learn basic listening and speaking skills, by talking with each other and Suarez, singing and dancing to educational videos like Buenos Dias and the number song, and learning children's stories in the bright, comfortable classroom.
"Children can be safe here, and it's education-oriented," Suarez said. "It's not a day-care business, but it will be fun.
"We're going to do all the things kids like to do."
Suarez is as enthusiastic about the songs, dances and languages as her youngest student. She's planning on working with local children just as she works with her own 4-year-old grandchild, although 4 is as young a student as she's ever taught.
But her students aren't all children. Suarez will also teach beginning and intermediate classes to adults, in the evening hours to accommodate work schedules.
She's got experience to back up her teaching.
Suarez has worked with high school, college and adult students, and worked with children previously, both at Jefferson Elementary School in the early 2000s and currently in a before-school program at Franklin Elementary School.
She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Buenos Aires University in Argentina, and a masters in foreign language and literature from Washington State University.
Spanish is not the most in-demand
language in the Palouse region, and although Suarez might've found work in other areas, she chose to stay in the region with her family -- her husband is a researcher for WSU.
And her family has been supportive. Suarez's son helped her set up the classroom and technology, like the projector, and her daughter sent art from Texas to decorate the walls.
And that portable projector was a gift from her husband. And pictures of her family, including a trip to Disneyland, grace the room.
As a native Spanish speaker, Suarez started learning English through music, first learning melodies, then lyrics, to English songs.
It's a tactic she plans to employ.
"If you tell kids what a song is about, it makes sense once they know the words," she said. "It's not unfamiliar anymore."
Adults will also learn through music, and occasional tango lessons.
But a major part of learning language is starting young.
"By the time they're in high school, it's too late and too difficult," she said, especially when it comes to proper pronunciation and accents. "But with little kids, learning a language isn't difficult."
She's not forgetting about adult learners and plans to work just as hard with them. She'll use an educational Spanish soap opera, as well as text books and a workbook.
All groups will have ample speaking, dancing and cultural enrichment opportunities, she said.
And her business isn't just for those learning Spanish. Suarez is certified to translate and interpret medical, social and legal documents, can tutor high school and college students and can help tutor students for various English as a second language classes.
She's giving back what she can.
"In this area, there's nothing, unless you take Spanish at WSU," she said. "But then you have to take four credits, go to class four times a week, park your car or walk, go in the morning. This is for people who work and who want to take classes. That's why they're in the evening."
Suarez is also thinking of hosting a summer camp of sorts, with Spanish and art or music for a few hours a day to keep kids busy.
"The children need attention," Suarez said, putting the finishing touch on her classroom. "They can come here to learn, play and dance, and have fun."
Pullman Language Center
Classes and costs
--Children: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:15-5 p.m., 45 per month
--Beginning adults: Mondays and Thursdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Jan. 9-March 8, 110
--Intermediate adults: Tuesdays and Fridays, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Jan. 10-March 9, 110
--Intermediate adults: Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon, Jan. 10-March 14, 110
Suarez is available at (509) 332-7324, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and online at www.suarezlanguageservices.com.
Amelia Veneziano can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 233, or by email to email@example.com.
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