My sister has changed. She rushes to get off the phone on Thursday evenings, and she pronounces everything with a French accent. Mooooxxxeeeeeeeen! she says with a dramatic flourish for no reason. Except that Maxine is in her French class at the Chattanooga School of Language in St. Elmo.
My sister was giddy this past spring when she signed up for her French class. "I've always wanted to learn a foreign language," Woo Kelley says. "But I didn't want to commit to a college class, so The Chattanooga School of Language is perfect for me!"
The brainchild of Laurie Stevens, a Red Bank native and graduate of Berry College, the school's mission is to create a more aware, inclusive and educated community through the teaching of language and culture. "Our goal is to immerse the students in the whole culture, not just teach the language," Laurie says. Hence French wine and luscious cheeses and other delicacies are provided to bring the phrase Bon Appetite! to the students' lips.
Laurie works full time at Siskin in the marketing department, but has had a love affair with languages for her entire life. Her stint at La Paz, a non profit organization, inspired her to use her Spanish minor in a big way. "It's so sad schools are not offering foreign languages as much; it's such a big part of learning! Besides making yourself more marketable, there are many cognitive benefits," Laurie says.
Laurie actually started the school last summer with one evening class at La Paz and two students. She soon outgrew the facility and conducted classes in coffee shops before moving to St. Elmo. "I love having a storefront right on St. Elmo Avenue! And it's such a great area!" she says of her space right across from Blacksmiths. She has big plans for the school, including a culture camp for kids next summer, and several trips abroad are already in progress!
Although Laurie is partial to Spanish, it is not the only language offered, by a long shot. French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and Mandarin are all taught, and there are also classes in sign language and Russian. "You wouldn't believe how many requests we have for Russian!" Laurie says. And if you request it, it will be offered! There are several different options for classes. Private lessons, semi-private and group classes (which are only $10 an hour!), and an option of 6 weeks or 10 weeks, but there is a 12 hour commitment. As part of the immersion experience, you will be exposed to the specific culture as much as possible, which may include field trips to foreign films or events, or cooking classes. There is also a 'Cliff Notes' version of the language which is an intense crash course designed to prepare you for your upcoming trip abroad.
The languages run the gambit, but there is one theme in all the classes and that is FUN! "It's not just sitting in a class room and taking notes, but making the whole culture come alive!" Laurie promises enthusiastically. There are actually 'socials' for graduates which are basically cocktail parties where you only converse in your 'new' language!
Woo was even more giddy after the first session of her French class, and absolutely beside herself when she just recently registered for a second session. "Almost everybody in our class wanted to continue, and it is so much fun!" Woo says. She is absolutely effervescent when she talks about it, and I've finally gotten used to her newly acquired French accent.
Maybe if they'd served a little wine and pastries I would remember a little bit more from my high school French class.
You can contact them at www.chattanoogalanugage.com or 423 802-2040.
Classes will be held at the Business Development Center, 100 Cherokee Blvd. Suite 307, Chattanooga, Tn. 37405.