- Rotary InterCountry Teacher Exchange

Reproduced by permission Fort Worth Star-Telegram Metro

Fort Worth rotarian teaches lessons about Spanish, Argentina

By Michelle Melendez
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH -- Not many youngsters had ever heard of Argentina before Nylia Monté visited them yesterday at Oakhurst Elementary School.

By the end of her talk, though, they claimed to have seen the gigantic whales in her pictures.

Monté, an exchange teacher invited by Rotary Club of Fort Worth Horizon, captivated pre- kindergarten and kindergarten students' attention with photos of baby seals, Argentine cowboys and dazzling coastal cities.

She made sure every child had a chance to study the photos and ask questions, lest they raise their hands incessantly and feel cheated if they weren't called on. Monté also engaged the students with physical exercise and matching games.

Monté, 26, was sent to Fort Worth by the Rotary Club she belongs to in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. She is the principal of a language school that serves students ages 6 to 65.

The primary purpose of the exchange was to teach students Spanish, as well as to expose them to a different culture. But Monté found that her expertise in teaching English to native Spanish speakers was what Oakhurst students needed most.

"I was able to help these children because I understand what their problems are because I had them myself," she said during a break between back-to-back presentations. "They are not really problems. It is just the process of learning. It takes time."

Students whose first language is Spanish often have difficulty pronouncing the various sounds of "th," "ee" and "oo" in English, she said.

Until yesterday, Monté had spent the majority of her time in a second-grade class taught by Frances Hollifield. She led classroom activities at times and accompanied the class on a field trip.

During her presentation yesterday, Monté easily switched between Spanish and English. But her pronunciation of the "ll" and "s" in Spanish is very distinctive. Argentines tend to exaggerate the "j" sound of the "ll" in Spanish and eliminate the "s."

She said she also learned many new Spanish words for animals and objects from the students at Oakhurst, who use a Mexican dialect. She also picked up a lot of American English expressions and slang.

"This was supposed to be a teaching thing, but I've been learning a lot from the children," she said before going on to her next assignment.

Today, she starts teaching Spanish at Tarrant County Junior College Southeast Campus for 10 days before returning home.

The Rotary Club also sends Fort Worth teachers to Argentina.

Michelle Melendez, (817) 390-7541
Send your comments to mmelendez@star-telegram.com

Permission to reprint this article was given by Michelle Melendez
9:55 AM 2/1/99

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WWW version added on 02-01-99
Last updated on 02-01-99