Arts and Entertainment

All for language, language for all

Northwest Language Academy board members, students and staff hold a new sign up in front of the  academy’s new location. From left are Debra Richardson, Elizabeth George, George Vassil, Josette Hendrix, Susan Copeland, Mike Seymour, Julie Quiring, Kate Daniels and Linda Good. - Photo courtesy of the Northwest Language Academy
Northwest Language Academy board members, students and staff hold a new sign up in front of the academy’s new location. From left are Debra Richardson, Elizabeth George, George Vassil, Josette Hendrix, Susan Copeland, Mike Seymour, Julie Quiring, Kate Daniels and Linda Good.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Northwest Language Academy

After 12 years of running a private foreign language school, Josette Hendrix has said bonjour! to nonprofit status.

The Northwest Language Academy transitioned in May to become a nonprofit organization with a board of directors, a new location and its very own administrative staff.

The academy’s new location is at 2812 Minehold Road in Bayview, next to the Sears House.

Hendrix is very excited about the move and the new prospects planned for the language school.

“We’ve hit an explosion,” Hendrix said.

“Reorganizing around this nonprofit status with a full gamut of offerings is the culmination of the vision I had from the beginning for this academy, which I see as a community-based enterprise.”

Hendrix is a multi-lingual, foreign language teacher of Bulgarian descent who grew up in a French family and emigrated to Italy at age 10.

Understandably, she is passionate about the value of introducing foreign languages to the English-speaking set. To that end, she and her new staff are determined to incorporate the language academy’s services into local public school programs to give the community a broader range of possibilities for students who want to learn a language.

“I think it would be very beneficial all around if a sustainable program was introduced into the schools so that in-depth learning could take place,” Hendrix said.

“Learning a language is like a muscle that is trained; it doesn’t go away if it’s trained early on and the more you use it, the more you can do. It’s never too early and never too late,” she added.

Hendrix said that studying languages has also been proven to prevent dementia and exercises the brain so well that it has the capacity to open up other areas of production. This, she said, is one of the main reasons why she would love to see more comprehensive language programs offered at the schools.

She and the members of the academy’s board have already completed the preliminary work required to meet the district’s guidelines for introducing after-school clubs in Spanish and French.

The idea comes out of Hendrix’s own understanding of the struggles facing parents to offer their children a variety of activities.

“We’re trying to make it feasible for parents by bringing it right to the schools,” Hendrix said.

The program will begin by offering classes in Spanish for kindergarten through seventh grade. The class will meet at either the primary or intermediate school building for 90 minutes per day, one day every week. The first session is Oct. 23, and classes will run through Dec. 18.

The academy’s sights are set on offering clubs in other languages, as well, depending on enrollment numbers.

Beyond the after-school clubs, Hendrix said, the academy would like to do much more to help parents by offering sponsorships and grants for students to study language long term.

“With language, there is a critical window when so much can happen at an early age and form a lifelong skill,” Hendrix said.

Currently, the academy offers a wide range of programs to children, teens and adults in French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Bulgarian, Portuguese and German.

The academy just finished five weeks of summer camps for children in August, and is gearing up for its fall sessions, which follow the school year calendar.

The academy also offers adult classes and the “Traveler’s Language Cafes,” at which students attend seven-hour Saturday intensives that meet in Edmonds for conversational classes over a gourmet lunch.

In all adult classes, the emphasis is on conversation, vocabulary building and pronunciation, with enough grammar to provide a firm foundation. The goal is maximum language acquisition for meaningful, real-life communication in a relaxed and enjoyable environment.

Children’s classes are an immersion in the life of the language. An activities-based approach is used that includes songs, music, dance, games, visual art, theater and sports.

The idea is to emphasize comprehension, oral communication and the development of vocabulary and correct pronunciation.

Reading and writing exercises are also included in the instruction when appropriate, along with cultural exposure to increase global awareness.

The instructors at the Northwest Language Academy are native speakers who bring both linguistic and cultural expertise to the classroom. Instruction is tailored to meet the needs of the individuals in the group.

Hendrix said that she feels like she has accomplished a lot since starting the school more than a decade ago.

One of her first students at the school returned to the academy to work as a foreign language camp counselor for the summer.

“She told me that attending my language classes was the highlight of her childhood,” Hendrix said.

“That was a culminating moment for me; I’ve come full circle,” she said.

To find out more about the academy and classes, visit "http://www.nwlanguageacademy.com">Click here or call 321-2101.

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