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The Commercial Appeal

The Language Coach: Hablas Espanol? -- Private Classes Teach Spanish To Eager Youngsters

By Mark Watson

17 January 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Lisa Pierce of Germantown is learning Spanish - from her 6-year- old son Jacob.

Jacob attends Germantown Elementary School, but that's not where he's learning Spanish.

Instead, Pierce has enrolled her son in Spanish classes at The Language Coach, a private, for-profit school owned by Mildred Garcia.

"He has been in classes there since it opened," Pierce said. "He is at the prime age for learning a language, and I don't want to mess up that opportunity for him. ... In our world today, I think it's imperative that they learn a language other than English."

Garcia thinks her business can survive and prosper on the demand parents have for their youngsters to have the advantage of a second language when they grow up. And children find it most easy to learn a second language when they are young, she said.

"But the school system here doesn't have the funding for it, so they're not exposed to a second language until they reach high school, and by then, it may be too late," said Garcia, who is originally from Puerto Rico.

Amparo Villa, a woman from Colombia, opened The Language Coach in early 2004, but soon had to relocate to New Jersey.

"The parents wanted to keep bringing their kids here, so I bought the business from her, and I've been here since June," said Garcia.

She separates the students into three groups, with the youngsters age 3 through 6 in one group, age 8 through 12 in another, and age 12 and older in yet another.

"We do a lot of games," she said. "We try to incorporate reading and writing as we go along."

Tracy Lindow has had her son, Jake, 6, attend classes at The Language Coach since August.

"He attends with a small group of first-grade boys from different area public schools," Lindow said. "It's something he has fun with, as well as learns from. Since it is an extracurricular activity, I wanted it to be fun."

Lindow considered placing Jacob in private school, but found that the main academic difference was simply access to learning a second language in primary school.

"I felt like I could spend a little money and time inviting in a language experience at that critical age," she said.

"I work in human resources," Lindow said. "More and more, it's getting to be a requirement to be bilingual at every level of an organization. ... I just want to prepare my little boy for that added advantage."

Garcia has about 30 students now.

Having developed a business plan, Garcia reckons she can break even with 40 students.

"This time next year, hopefully, I'll have at least 60 students and three employees, including myself," she said.

She wants to start offering adult Spanish classes in February and bring the classes to some day-care facilities. She also wants to add other languages.

"I am very passionate about it," Garcia said. "I see how many doors it has opened for me, being bilingual. ... When it's part of your life, you want to share it with others."


The language coach

Head person: Mildred Garcia

Address: 8592 Cordes Circle, Suite 1

Number of employees: One

Phone number: 674-3332


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