Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/northphoenix/articles/1011wvangela1011Z3.html

Class lets English learners practice
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2003

Often the hardest part of learning a new language is trying to have an ordinary conversation without getting tongue-tied.

Adults from a variety of different countries have found a place to practice without intimidation in the Let's Talk English class at the Glendale Main Library.

Dora Murgia, originally from Peru, hopes the class will help her communicate at stores, where she said "people are not patient with us."

She said talking with others in the class works better than reading out loud to herself in English or watching television shows.

Jim Duncanson, who has volunteered as the class instructor since June, can turn just about anything into a teaching moment.

For instance, someone in the room sneezes, and Duncanson launches into a short lesson about "bless you" and "gesundheit."

As they eagerly jot down notes, his students ask questions about confusing words and phrases they've collected over the past week.

One person asks what "hands-on" means in a flier offering computer classes. Another wonders about the difference between can and could.

Duncanson's background as a usability engineer (think ergonomics) with a doctorate in experimental psychology seems a far cry from English teacher.

But he's been teaching immigrants ever since earning his English language teaching certificate in New York in 2001.

After retiring to Glendale this year, he found an opening for a volunteer to lead the library's Let's Talk English class.

The class has proved so popular that the library recently added a second class at the Velma Teague branch on Monday nights.

In one recent morning class, about 20 adults from countries including Peru, Hong Kong, Chile and Mexico, attended.

A slight majority of people in the morning class are from South Korea, while the evening class has mainly Spanish-speakers, Duncanson said.

Moonchoul Jee started attending the Let's Talk English classes about a year ago.

Like many of the women in the morning class, her husband attends the nearby American Graduate School of International Management.

Pauline Ho, originally from Hong Kong, said the class has not only helped her practice speaking English but has given her a chance to learn about other people's cultures.

Rosario Rizzo has another reason to come to class.

Her youngest son just started kindergarten and will need help on his phonics.

"I know the words but I don't know all the different sounds," she said. Although her husband is American, they mainly speak Italian in their home.

The free walk-in class meets at the Main Library, 5959 W. Brown St., from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Wednesdays and at the Velma Teague branch, 7010 N. 58th Ave., from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

An Arizona native, Angela Rabago-Mussi has lived in Peoria for six years. Send any tips about people, places and events in Glendale and Peoria to angelamussi@aol.com.