Spanish teenagers learn English in NilesPublished 4:43pm Monday, July 2, 2012
For the past two summers, Pablo Cobo has traveled more than 4,000 miles from his hometown of Cordoba, Spain, to Niles.
The 18-year-old is one of 25 Spanish teenagers arriving last week in Niles for a cultural immersion program designed to help them learn English.
They stay with volunteer host families in the Niles area, attend English class at Hope Community Church in Niles and tour the area. The program lasts about a month.
Before last year, Cobo didn’t know much about the United States outside of what he saw on television.
The biggest difference between Spain and the United States, he said, is the daily schedule.
In Spain, people generally stay up later and sleep in longer. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is served between 2 and 3 p.m. Dinner is between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.
“It is hard to get used to at first,” he said.
Kelly Flenar, of Niles, said she has enjoyed being a host family for the program the past five years.
“You and your kids get a lifelong friend,” she said.
Flenar said some of the Spanish teenagers love making s’mores, as most have never roasted a marshmallow before. She said some put mayonnaise instead of butter on corn on the cob.
“But, for the most part, they are like teenagers here,” she said.
Jose Maria-Torres, of Almeria, Spain, has been chaperone for the different groups of Spanish teenagers the past five years.
He said it is becoming increasingly important for people in Spain to learn English. It can determine whether a student can get into a university or land a good job, he said.
Students also get to see what people in the United States are really like and not how they are portrayed in the news or on television.
“There is a political campaign against the United States as a place full of arrogant people, but it really isn’t the truth,” Torres said. “This (program) is good because the students get to see there are nice, friendly and kind people here.”
Melissa Poole, of Buchanan, is director of operations for the cultural immersion program, called Socializing Understanding Respecting Expanding (SURE).
Tags: Hope Community Church