Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/chandler/articles/0924speedyspanishZ6.html

Learn to 'habla' in a hurry at Speedy Spanish class
Special for The Republic
Sept. 24, 2003

Kirsten Sorenson

Koka Devers found her motivation to learn Spanish not in Arizona but in France.

Devers, 36, of Ahwatukee Foothills, spent part of the summer as a spectator of the Tour de France bicycle race.

She doesn't speak much French, but instead, she said she found more use for her limited Spanish-speaking skills.

"It is a much more universal language," Devers said.

Devers is one of about 100 East Valley residents expanding their Spanish language abilities at a class taught at the Horizon Learning Community Center in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Speedy Spanish is a six-week course in the basics of the language. By the second class, instructor Raymond Argel was already teaching students how to conjugate basic verbs such as to eat (comer) and to bathe (baņar), the months of the year, colors and numbers. The 76-year-old Mexican native teaches a lively class and even leads students in a rousing round of Feliz Cumpleaņos (Happy Birthday).

Devers is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and she said she wants to do more traveling. She figures Spanish is spoken in so many countries, she will be able to use it almost anywhere she travels.

But many students want to use the language here at home. Argel, who has been teaching Spanish since 1958, had an obliging audience when he asked if people should be multilingual.

Students agreed that since an increasing number of Arizonans speak Spanish as their first language, and some speak no English at all, it would be wise to learn the language. The language Arizonans speak has been a somewhat controversial issue as the state's Hispanic population rises.

But for Mary Bowman, there is no need for controversy.

"I think it's just a matter of respect," Bowman said.

Bowman, 56, of Tempe, taught French for years before joining the Peace Corps. She and her husband, who were living in Pennsylvania at the time, were sent to Moldova, a former Soviet republic. They had to learn Romanian and some Russian.

"People need to be able to find a common language," she said.

Fred Winston's reasons for taking Speedy Spanish were more personal. His girlfriend is Hispanic and speaks fluent Spanish. Winston, 47, of Chandler, also travels to South America frequently and uses Spanish in his work as a wholesale automobile broker.

Apparently, more and more people agree with these and other reasons to learn a new language. Speedy Spanish is so popular, the classes' sponsor, South Mountain Community College, just added two more sessions to the five under way for the fall semester. And there's still a waiting list.

Speedy Spanish I can be followed by Speedy Spanish II, which starts the week of Oct. 21. For information on upcoming classes, call South Mountain Community College, (480) 659-3070.