from the walla walla union bulletin today

posted 3/21/2005 10:26:08 PM by: timothy

Gonzalo Castillo and Ruben Gomez practice English skills with Timothy Russell, right, who is honing his Spanish during Garrison Night School's two-way language class. The program has become one fo the most popular classes at the decade-old adult education program.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Native speakers share knowledge

By Cathy Grimes of the Union-Bulletin

Garrison Night School offers classes in Spanish and English and a hybrid immersion class for students who want to hone skills with native speakers.

The two-way English-Spanish class began about three years ago when Walla Walla Public Schools began offering similar programs in kindergarten classes, according to district bilingual coordinator Cindy Gregoire.

Walla Walla Community College, a partner in the night school, also offers two-way classes for students. College officials and Gregoire said interest in the interactive programs has risen steadily.

``We had a huge interest this year in that class,' Gregoire said.

Students in the two-way program spend one hour studying their second language, then team in the second hour to practice language skills.

``The second hour is the favorite part of the class,' Gregoire said.

According to language instructors, students studying a second language can become functionally literate in the new language in about three years. Total fluency takes about seven. The aim of the two-way classes is to foster better understanding and stronger conversational skills within the limited time frame of the four-month night school sessions.

At the night school graduation, Walla Walla Community College Board member Dora Reyes said such programs help ``bridge the gap between the two cultures.'

Walla Walla High School Assistant Principal Mark Agrellas agreed. He and his wife took the interactive language lessons during the latest night school sessions.

``We really loved the time we spent with that class,' he said. ``They knew a little English. We knew a little Spanish. It was a perfect match.'

Agrellas said he was able to put his lessons into practice at Wa-Hi, where more than 21 percent of the students are Latino.

``The students become my teachers,' he said. ``Even the parents help. It means a lot for them if you try to use their language.'

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