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Language camp serves learners and teachers

Wed., July 27, 2005

You might expect that kids from Iraq would find it difficult to learn English.

Allow Saif and Raghda Al-Hmeyrat to set you straight.

“It’s easy!” the 11-year-old twins shout simultaneously.

“It was hard for me to learn Arabic,” Raghda said. “It’s easier to learn English.”

Still, everyone can use a little help. The twins are two of more than 50 Spokane residents taking advantage of a free language camp at Gonzaga University.

The camp, open to people of all ages, is a blend of training for students learning how to teach English as a second language and people who can use their help.

“There are some who only know, ‘Hello, how are you?’ – the basics,” said Judi Migliazzo, camp coordinator. “Others are very skilled orally, but still have gaps in the language.”

The Summer Institute, which began July 11 and concludes Friday, is a cooperative project between GU and Spokane Public Schools, Migliazzo said.

During the institute, morning sessions are held for Gonzaga students looking ahead to teaching careers.

In the afternoons, those students help run the classes for community members, who have come from 18 countries.

Most of those are children whose families have immigrated here or who have been adopted by American parents.

But some adults also attend, and institute officials say that the language barriers for them can be daunting – everything from reading street signs to a bus schedule becomes much more difficult, said Tina Benson, one of the camp organizers.

“One Korean young man wanted to know what to say when you get your hair cut,” Migliazzo said.

The language camp is divided into age groups. Raghda and Saif Al-Hmeyrat were in the intermediate class, along with their friend, Mahdieh Lashgari, 10, who came here from Iran with her parents.

The Al-Hmeyrats have been here with their mother for about two years.

They say she misses Iraq, but it’s unclear whether they’ll return.

During their class Tuesday, the kids watched an animated story and played games to enhance their language skills. The three friends said they’ve enjoyed just about every aspect of the camp – though they said they felt a little mature for the “Cinderella” story used last week.

“Yeah,” Lashgari said. “We’re grown up.”


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