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Night classes help Latinos lose shyness

Every Wednesday night, the Lincoln County Literacy Council fills with Spanish-speaking students hoping to learn about their adopted country.
“They love the fact (the class) is not just language,” said Cristina Arlow, director of the Literacy Council and the class’ teacher. “They like to understand why things are and the way they are here.”
Arlow incorporates many aspects of living in Lincoln County in her class. Students read articles about upcoming events such as Denver Days and the Halloween Parade.
Oftentimes, these articles prompt questions about cultural differences.
Many of the students were not familiar with Halloween traditions, but after the class they went out and participated in the American holiday.
“I know that they took their child and dressed it up and participated in the parade,” said Arlow.
The class also deals with serious issues such as what to say in an emergency situation and how to fill out a job application.
Arlow, who speaks fluent Spanish, finds that her students are most afraid of speaking English out loud. They also become frustrated with irregular verbs.
“That confuses them a lot,” she said. “I mean, that confuses Americans who speak English.”
She also helps students go through American idioms that would make no sense if directly translated.
“Bent out of shape” was one of the idioms taught on Wednesday night. An American Spanish tutor who participates in the class explained the meaning.
“There’s a lot of Democrats today that are bent out of shape,” said Larry Madux, the tutor.
Students in the class nodded knowingly.
“When American people are mad, they don’t say they are bent out of shape,” said Mario Calo, a student. “They say other words.”
“We will not go over those words here,” said Arlow laughing.
Many of the students attend the night class after a hard day of work, but they always say they are happy to come.
While learning survival English, the students spend a lot of time joking around and having fun.
“There is a lot of interest, a lot of laughter,” said Arlow. “They feel pretty confident about asking anything.”
At the end of each class, following explanations of idioms, translations of articles and worksheets on irregular verbs, students have time to ask questions.
Arlow answers most of the questions, but she often uses the help of two Americans who attend the class, her husband and Madux, the tutor.
These Americans also spend time during class reading out loud in order for students to get used to American accents.
During the question and answer period, Arlow has explained why streets change their names and how Lincolnton has so many streets named after trees.
On Wednesday night she went over the words “herd” and “heard” and the subtle differences between “heard” and “listened.”
The students all listened intently and wrote down notes. Arlow has noticed that since they enrolled in the class, the students have become more comfortable about English.
“I think a lot of them are losing their shyness about the language,” she said.by Sarah Grano

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