Huntington Beach

Education -   Published Wednesday, April 7, 2010 10:11 PM PDT

Children learn ortra lengua
Students impress their teacher with enthusiasm for Spanish and pick up simple phrases
By Claire Chang

Just listening to the Spanish-speaking children shout confidently in class may fool some people into believing that they are native speakers.

But peek into BHalls C and D at Murdy Community Center, and a diverse group of students is sitting in front in a circle as they participate in their first Spanish for Fun and Forever class. They are Murnez Blades' newest set of beginning Spanish students, and they blew her away with their enthusiastic learning attitudes.

"Usually during the first class, children are often afraid to speak up," she said. "But these kids did fabulously, and some even have the accents down already."

Monday afternoon, six children ages 4 to 8 were introduced to Spanish.

Blades made use of her hour with the class and immediately began speaking Spanish as she started by asking her students to levantase.

Students who did not understand looked to peers for support and eventually understood that they were asked to stand up.

Daniella Galvan, 6, who comes from a Spanish-speaking family, was one to offer guidance to other students.

"I know Spanish because my mom taught me, and I liked helping other people because it's fun," she said.

Through group interactions, students learned how to identify body parts, articles of clothing, things they would find in a house and numbers.

Blades used sing-a-longs and pictures to help the children memorize vocabulary.

"They learn it when they hear you say it and when they see the picture," Blades said.

In addition to learning new words, they learned how to say simple phrases such as "me duele mi cabeza" (my head hurts) and "tengo seis aņos" (I am 6 years old).

The class played lotteria to review what they had learned, and at the end of class, students lined up in a single-file line as they shook Blades' hand and thanked her in Spanish before leaving for the day.

As for the classes to come, children can expect to further expand their vocabulary.

Blades, who has been teaching Spanish for 30 years, believes that children who speak a different language will get an early opportunity to experience the "gift" of other cultures.

"They can do it," she said. "There are children who speak three languages because they are surrounded and are taught in effective ways."