New Spanish language school in Marquette to host open house today

MARQUETTE — A new locally-owned Spanish language school will offer classes for the first time next week to those interested in learning or brushing up on the language.

Comunitaria, a one-room schoolhouse located on the lower level of the historic Savings Bank Building in Marquette, will host an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. today, where anyone can ask questions about classes and meet the school’s director and main educator, Mary Antonia Andronis.

After living and teaching abroad and in larger U.S. cities, Andronis, a Marquette native, realized there was a lack of opportunities for people who wanted to learn Spanish in the Upper Peninsula. Because of this, Andronis is opening the only private language school of its kind in the area.

“After I moved back home I was teaching at (Northern Michigan University) part time and sometimes full time, and I just realized that there is a gap that needs to be filled. I’ve heard from tons of people who have talked about learning Spanish that either don’t have the time or money to take a university course or sit in a classroom four days a week,” Andronis said. “It took me a long time to get to a place where I could think about doing this feasibly but it’s pretty awesome to be able to combine all of these things I’ve learned over the years into one super job. This is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Andronis is a bilingual anthropologist and linguist who has taught Spanish professionally since 2002. Aside from NMU, she has also taught at Malcolm X City College of Chicago, Columbia College, The University of Chicago, as well as at the elementary school level in the U.S. and Ecuador. Her research with various indigenous groups in both the Amazon and the Andes has garnered her various publications, speaking engagements and grants, including a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. She’s also organized and led tours to Cuba and Ecuador, and has helped facilitate other international volunteer and travel programs.

Classes at Comunitaria, which means “community” in English, begin Tuesday for adults and June 12 for youth. Each class will be capped at seven people people per class.

“It’s kind of ideal to have a small class size for language learning because sometimes people get really scared to talk in front of classrooms of 30 people because people are going to make mistakes, especially while learning a language,” she said. “With a smaller group, it’s more intimate, everyone has more one-on-one time with the professor. Learning a language is stressful enough. I want people to learn at a comfortable pace but I don’t want it to be overwhelming to people either.”

Classes will be broken into different categories for both youth and adults. There will be beginning-level Spanish courses, for those with little or no previous exposure to the language and intermediate and advanced Spanish, for language learners who have had some experience with the language and have obtained a basic grasp of the grammar.

Comunitaria will also offer private tutoring for individuals or partners, intensive workshops for both private and public institutions, and a wanderlust Spanish class that’ll be geared toward a real practical knowledge of the language, Andronis said.

“The wanderlust course will be for people wanting to travel,” she said. “It’ll kind of stand as a crash-course where we’ll mostly practice speaking things that would be helpful to know when traveling to a Spanish speaking country, like how you order a bus ticket, proper greetings, how to order at a restaurant and ask basic questions, things like that.”

Andronis said students will be assigned tasks to do outside the classroom, too, since learning language is an active process.

“The more you’re exposed to the language, the better — so listening to music, watching movies, with or without subtitles in Spanish, stuff like that is kind of the bulk of what I’ll be making people do outside of class,” she said. “It’s really a part of my heart — to not only help people learn another language, but teach them about different cultures that speak Spanish. There’s so much to talk about, the art, the literature, the politics. From what I found with students is the more they learn about the culture, the more interested they are in learning the language and memorizing grammar patterns.”

Andronis said she’s invited guest speakers to classes as well so students will be able to listen to different accents and ways of speaking.

Enrollment closing dates are on the same day classes start. All courses will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Comunitaria is located at 101 S. Front St. Suite 1, Marquette. For more information or to enroll in a class, visit http://comunitarialanguageschool.com or its Facebook page.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.