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Raquel Contreras could see her daughter’s command of the Spanish language slipping just a little — and didn’t like it one bit.

So the Columbus mother and her husband enrolled 9-year-old Andrea in the Spanish School, a Spanish language and cultural program that concluded its first semester Saturday and is striving to add enrollment in its second, which starts Jan. 12.

“Spanish was becoming her second language instead of her first,” Contreras said about her daughter, a student at Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln. “She needed to be in a program outside of the home, where she could learn with others.”

The Spanish Culture Center launched the Spanish School in September at Northside Middle School, 1400 27th St., in response to a need it identified in the community, said Alejandro Rosales, a member of the Spanish School’s board of directors.

He said about half of the 13 enrolled students are from Hispanic homes, where parents want to make sure their children stay strong in their roots, despite growing up in the United States. He said the other half are from America or other nations and simply want their children to become bilingual.

Classes meet from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays in three classrooms and likely will during the upcoming semester, Rosales said. Spanish 1 is for the youngest children; Spanish 2 is for slightly older children, and Spanish 3 is for the oldest, spanning all grade levels from elementary to high school.

Volunteer teachers and their assistants help the students learn to speak and write through repetition, singing, projects and various hands-on activities.

On the last day of the semester, Dec. 8, students demonstrated to their parents some of those newly attained skills with some amusing plays in one of the classrooms.

One group of students performed a play version of children’s classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Another group of students performed another classic, “The Three Pigs.”

Parents and teachers said the children learned a lot in a short time.

Wendolyn Jimenez, a teacher of the Spanish 1 class, said the two students in her class came to her at the beginning of the semester with limited or nonexistent speaking and writing skills. She said they both showed marked improvement.

Anthony and Cindy England, whose son, Anthony Jr., 6, was in the Spanish 1 class, said they enrolled their son because they wanted him to grow up knowing a second language.

Cindy England said she hopes being bilingual will help her son land a good job someday.

“He’s learned so much,” she said. “He knows his colors and his numbers and his months. We’re very pleased with his progress.”

Contreras said her daughter, Andrea, had the advantage of growing up in a Spanish-speaking household. But the girl’s skills were suffering, so Contreras and her husband decided to do something about it before it was too late.

Several students said they recommend the class to other children.

  • Nick Walter, 11, who was in the Spanish 3 class, said he knew a little Spanish before he began his class but knows far more now.
  • Jaideep Thiruthani, 10, who also is in the Spanish 3 class, said the semester was fun. He said one of its skill-building activities was to watch a Spanish movie subtitled in English.
  • Rosales said the next semester probably would focus more than it did last semester on writing, conversations and other skills beyond basic colors, months and numbers.

He said a formal evaluation of the Spanish School’s success probably will come at the end of the upcoming semester.

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