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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

LEOlingo: Teacher launches Spanish language immersion summer camps in Spokane

Jasmine Linane-Booey is a Spokane-raised educator who runs LEOlingo language summer camp.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Jasmine Linane-Booey felt drawn to language learning while living in Europe. Now, she wants to help children ages 5-12 in Spokane through Spanish immersion summer camps.

She is launching LEOlingo Language Camps, based on years working as a counselor for English immersion in Germany’s LEOlingo Sprachcamps für Kinder. She also lived for a while in Spain studying that country’s language.

Linane-Booey, a languages teacher for two years at Spokane Public Montessori School, hired three Spokane counselors fluent in Spanish to guide games, songs and cultural activities, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Emmaus Church in the South Perry District. The $220 one-week camp sessions are scheduled June 27-July 29, excluding the week of Fourth of July .

“In the morning, there will always be a dedicated English speaker – myself, my husband, or even my mom is helping – to greet parents and campers and transition them inside,” Linane-Booey said. “It’s mostly to get everyone ready – especially the first couple of days – that if you have any questions, I can answer, but your counselors are only going to speak to you in Spanish.”

If campers know a counselor only speaks in a new way, it forces creativity to communicate, she said. “That I can’t say it the way I would in English, but what words do I have in my Spanish tool box I can use? It really forces the brain to naturally use the words you do have in that language.”

The mornings start with team games in Spanish that don’t require much speaking, but a counselor will explain using “a lot of body language and slow Spanish,” Linane-Booey said. “The rest of the morning moves into other stuff, like we’ll play Family Feud, to force a little more language.”

Because it’s a heavy brain workout to be thinking, listening and talking in another language, the children will have daily outside breaks in a nearby park.

After-lunch activities will involve some theater or crafts and calmer activities, she said. At the end of the day, children do an activity on paper, eventually for a booklet that children take home.

“It all builds and accumulates. There are songs we teach throughout the week as well that we sing during transitions. Then on Friday, there is a show for parents and friends.

“It’s a pretty fast-paced program specifically to keep kids distracted from the fact that it’s all happening in Spanish. There’s not enough time to think, ‘I don’t understand.’ They just want to play the game.”

Spokane born and raised, Linane-Booey first went to Europe at age 19 as a Gonzaga University student.

“I had lots of opportunities to study abroad, and I tried to find all the ways I could,” she said. “My brother actually worked at LEOlingo two years before, so I went and just really loved the camp and connected with the owner. I did a total of seven years at the camp in Germany.”

Graduating in 2013 from GU, she worked in Spain as an au pair but had time for formal class studies in Spanish. Though she spoke English with the children for the job, she also had language immersion during family informal times.

After LEOlingo work, she planned to teach in Spain but couldn’t get a work visa, so she traveled Europe before returning home. That’s how she met her husband, Loïc Gosselin.

To save money, she’d used a system of free ride shares and couchsurf bookings. She said many Europeans host to meet people and practice English. Gosselin was a host in Paris.

After getting married, the couple spent about two years living in his hometown of Annecy, France, before moving to Spokane. During most summers in Europe, she found a way back to Germany and LEOlingo.

“It’s like a normal summer camp experience except they’re all German kids and all the counselors are from English-speaking countries,” Linane-Booey said. “You had counselors from Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada.

“These German kids are getting English language exposure, but also a huge cultural exposure. The counselors are always encouraged to bring flags and pictures and things from their country to share a little about culture.”

Sabine Görner and Andrea Bär, former teachers, started LEOlingo about 17 years ago.

Bär lives in the south of Germany, and Görner is in the north.

“They run the exact same camp and program, but kind of independently. I worked in the south once but I typically worked in the north.”

Now, Linane-Booey said Görner is helping her start a U.S. LEOlingo program.

“I had a family of some (Spokane) students last year who asked me if I do tutoring. I said, ‘I don’t do tutoring, but I do fun stuff.’ Last year, this family helped me get a group of 13 campers together. I did the camp myself just as a test.

“This year, I talked with Sabine and said ‘I really want to go for it,’ to see if I can make this happen in Spokane and the U.S. Really, I’m running it on my own but I’m using her program and materials.”

Young children don’t have many opportunities for language learning in school, she said. A few exceptions here include the Libby Center’s Spanish immersion and the Montessori schools.

In future years, Linane-Booey hopes to offer other extracurricular courses in Spokane for different languages, offered for students from early childhood to adulthood.

“Really, we need to be targeting our language learning at the lower levels, starting in kindergarten and first grade when kids are naturally absorbing it and not fighting the learning process,” she said. “They don’t have that fear or they’re not embarrassed to say something the wrong way.

“If things go well this summer, I’m hoping to expand over the years LEOlingo into both a summer camp and a kind of school-year extracurricular program that kids can participate in, and even adults.”

She said Spokane is growing and becoming more diverse, with new refugee and immigrant families. LEOlingo can be a platform to explore culture and different languages.

She’s made a career out of languages, including in Europe with her English skills. In the U.S., she said children who don’t speak English as their first language take classes to learn English, which she encourages, but with a hope for more.

“We don’t do enough to honor the culture and languages that are happening at home,” she said.

“I want to create more spaces where honoring the culture and the language you have first is an asset, so I’m thinking about our Marshallese communities, Ukrainian communities, Spanish communities and all of our communities in Spokane.

“They need to know their language is an asset and a skill, and so is English. If we honor those things, then we are going to be raising a whole population of people who grow up multilingual.”

She’d like to hold some free sessions for native speakers, while offering tuition-based LEOlingo to children and adults who want to learn a new language. “But that’s my 20-year plan.”