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Whitewater offers foreign language classes to community

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Kayla Bunge
January 28, 2010
— Years ago, English was the only language anybody in southern Wisconsin needed to know.

Not anymore, according Whitewater school officials.


Whitewater residents can learn Arabic, Spanish or Chinese in evening classes offered by the school district starting next week.


Classes will be held weekday evenings at the high school.


“Back in the 1970s … English was the only language you needed to know. But now that the world has become more flat … you need to learn another language and culture,” said Guoli Liang, a professor at UW-Whitewater who will be leading the Chinese class.


Experts say Spanish, Chinese and Arabic are critical to success in a changing world. The three languages are among the most widely spoken in the world, statistics show.


“The critical languages are different than they were decades ago,” said Lori Ann Hoyt, a graduate student at UW-Whitewater who will be leading the Arabic class.


Spanish, French and German often were the foreign languages most people learned, but Chinese, Arabic and Russian now are more valuable for success in a global society and economy, she said.


“When I started learning Arabic, it was sort of a mystery language,” Hoyt said. “But today, it’s a critical foreign language for government, for business, for tourism.


The district hopes those teaching the classes can cater to the needs of the people learning, whether they want to learn the language for use at home or work or whether they want to learn it for fun.


Superintendent Suzanne Zentner said the Whitewater School District wants to expose students and community members to new cultures and experiences as it implements a 21st century learning community model. The model—founded on the principles of academic excellence; physical, emotional and social wellness, and sustainability—is a means of preparing students for high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs, she said.


Zentner said the district realizes the importance of equipping students and community members with the basic language skills to compete in a global economy.


The classes are open to people of all ages and skill levels and are geared toward people interested in learning basic reading, writing and speaking skills in any of the three languages.


“We’re going to be talking a lot about each person’s purpose for being there and making sure we’re tailoring the class to what they want,” said Lanora Heim, assistant principal at Whitewater High School and director of English language learners in the district. “We want to make sure it’s very practical Spanish they’re learning.”


The district also hopes the classes can teach people a little bit about other cultures and foster diversity in the community.


“One thing (students) need to be prepared to do is study and work in and with other cultures and backgrounds,” Liang said.


The district already offers English as a second language to adults in the community. It also previously offered Chinese. Both classes were well received, teachers said.


The people teaching the upcoming evening classes said community members should not be intimidated by learning a new language—even one that uses a different alphabet such as Chinese or Arabic. The classes will be fun and practical, they said.


“It’s reality,” Heim said. “These are skills we really believe our students need and our community would benefit from.”


CLASSES OFFERED

The Whitewater School District is offering foreign language classes to students and community members who live in the district.


-- Spanish: Classes, from beginner to advanced, are held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Feb. 2 through April 15, at Whitewater High School, 534 S. Elizabeth St., Whitewater. Cost is $25 and includes a workbook. National Honor Society students will offer free babysitting.


The class is led by three teachers who work with English language learners and their families in the district. Contact Maria Cervantez at (262) 472-8154 or mcervantez@wwusd.org to register or for more information.


-- Chinese: Classes are held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through May 5, at Whitewater High School. Cost is $100 and includes an instructional DVD package.


The class is led by Guoli Liang and the UW-Whitewater Chinese Students & Scholars Association. Contact Liang at (262) 472-1369 or liangg@uww.edu to register or for more information.


-- Arabic: Classes are held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 3 through May 5, at Whitewater High School. There is no cost.


The class is led by Lori Ann Hoyt, who studied Arabic at UW-Madison and the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and lived and worked in the Middle East. Contact Hoyt at (608) 359-1015 or hoytla12@uww.edu to register or for more information.



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