Originally created 11/30/03

Bilingual couple helps others



Kip Edwards learned Spanish from his wife, Maria, decades ago, and now the Evans couple are passing on their bilingual skills to the area's Hispanic community.

They volunteer, teaching both Spanish and English through La Asociacion Cultural Hispanoamericana, or ACHA, a local Hispanic-American cultural organization.

"I think the classes can be a huge help to ispanics who don't speak English) as they learn to be a productive part of society," Mr. Edwards said.

The couple is part of a small group of ACHA members who teach free English or Spanish language classes to fellow association members at Augusta State University. Mr. Edwards is the association's vice president, and his wife is the education director.

In past years, ACHA members met regularly when they read books, shared poems and explored Hispanic culture.

"It is beginning to change," Mrs. Edwards said. "We are starting to service the community."

The association and the Edwardses also teach literacy classes for Spanish speakers who cannot read or write in their native language.

The Edwardses met in Mexico 22 years ago and returned to Connecticut, where they were married. Mrs. Edwards learned English by enrolling in a General Educational Development English course. She then taught her husband Spanish.

"She let me make mistakes, but it built my confidence," Mr. Edwards said. "The worst thing you can do for a student is correct them every time they make an error."

The Edwardses take that casual approach to their classes, which began this year. There are no books and plenty of class activities to get students talking.

Each class session includes 24 hours of instruction through meetings held once or twice a week.

"It is working out real well," said Jana Sandarg, the association's co-founder and a language professor at Augusta State. "The students really enjoy it. When the ones who finished the last round are back for a second round, you know they enjoy it."

The classes are available only to association members, and membership costs $12.

The next round of language classes is expected to begin in the spring, Mr. Edwards said.

Membership and other information about the organization can be found by visiting www.elcervantino.org. Those wanting to learn more about the ESL classes may call Mrs. Edwards at 860-0438.

Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.