Original URL: http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/index.php?page=border_news&story_id=112703c10_languageschool&PHPSESSID=653608f539c9589f3769110937df0976

Language school tailored to needs of immigrants
The Associated Press
November 27, 2003

SUN CITY - For resident Josie Hidalgo Griffith, foreign languages have always been a way of life.

As one of seven children raised in Mesa and Glendale, Hidalgo Griffith grew up speaking English, Spanish and Basque. Her parents were natives of the Basque region of Spain who brought their culture and traditions to the United States. Hidalgo Griffith's father raised angora goats in Arizona, and employed Hopi and Navajo herders, exposing the young Josie to Indian languages as well.

Josie Hidalgo Griffith's love for foreign languages and compassion for immigrants is behind an adult language school she opened in October.

Hidalgo Griffith and friend Marilyn Wong teamed to open the Hidalgo-Wong Adult Education School in Glendale, which offers English to non-native speakers, as well as Chinese, Spanish and general educational development courses. All teachers are certified and experienced, and classes in other languages will be added as more teachers are found, Hidalgo said.

Students can choose times for classes that fit their job schedules, and the classes are kept purposefully small - with between 10 and 20 students.

"The schedule is (formatted) for all immigrants that are here that want an education," Hidalgo Griffith said.

Hidalgo Griffith has a diverse background, having worked as a Glendale librarian, co-founded an opal-mining company with her husband, and most recently, worked as a language tester for the Gary Tang Adult Education Center in Glendale.

Through working at the Gary Tang Center, Hidalgo Griffith has come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.

"The educating of immigrants is what we need," she said.

Without education, immigrants often work in jobs where they are paid cash, sometimes with employers failing to withhold taxes on the wages, Hidalgo Griffith said. These immigrants can find themselves trapped in a system where they provide "cheap slave labor," she said.

Hidalgo Griffith's desire is to help immigrants learn English as a means to better education and better jobs, she said.

Hidalgo Griffith and Wong decided to start the school because they wanted to create a more affordable alternative to private schools and colleges and universities, Hidalgo said.

Also of benefit to the students in the Hidalgo-Wong school is that classes are two hours each, and run four days a week. That gives the average student practice on a daily basis, as opposed to a less-intensive college class that meets two or three days per week.

The school's curriculum includes grammar books of different levels and field trips for students.

"We take them on trips to the libraries, grocery stores, teach them how to write checks," Hidalgo Griffith said.