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All Spanish, all the time

The Language Playhouse hopes to teach children foreign languages through play. Spanish is first up.

By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 12, 2002


NORTHDALE -- Melissa Andresen knows the world will be a different place as her children, 2 and 4, grow to be a part of it. One thing she is pretty sure of is that they'll need to know more than one language.

"In the future, it won't be an option," Andresen said.

To that end, Andresen is working to open the Language Playhouse, for children 18 months to 8 years old. The school, at 4920 Newkirk Drive, will teach youngsters Spanish through songs, games, arts and crafts, drama and plain old play time.

"All classes will be taught exclusively in Spanish," said Andresen, who will operate the school with center director Elizabeth Guinea.

Guinea, a native of Mexico, has degrees in psychology and education. Andresen was a business and marketing major.

The two will use a trademarked language immersion curriculum called "Language Stars," a Chicago-based program geared toward young children. Through play time activities, the kids are exposed to Spanish 100 percent of the time they are at the school.

Andresen, who lives in Cheval, said young children are especially adept at learning a second language.

"They absorb the language more quickly," she said. "In order for them to participate, you motivate them to speak the language."

Andresen was quick to point out that the Language Playhouse is not a day care center nor a linguistic boot camp.

The school can handle as many as 250 children. Sessions with children under 3 will be held with the child and a parent together and last about an hour twice a week. Sessions for children older than 3 will run about 90 minutes, also twice a week. Tuition will range from $160 to $185 for eight weeks of lessons.

At the start, Andresen plans to focus on Spanish because "we wanted to start out with the most useful foreign language in this area." If all goes well, she hopes to teach German, Italian, French and Japanese.

"It's going to be a fun program," said Guinea, a resident of Lake Shore Estates. "We want kids to be happy and enjoy it."

Andresen expects to open the Language Playhouse by September. For more information, she can be reached at 767-1341 .

-- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 269-5304 or at mabe@sptimes.com.

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