Students cooking up English skills
Start with a cup of hard work, fold in a teaspoon of fun and add a pinch of salt. Serves countless.
Gail Struble has developed the recipe for success in teaching English as a second language by integrating cooking lessons into a language class.
“It’s just so practical” said Struble, ESL teacher at Western Nevada Community College. “Everything is introduced to them beforehand so they know what they’re going to do by the time they get here.”
Students meet every Friday at Nevada Hispanic Services from 9 to 11 a.m. The first two hours are spent in the classroom learning vocabulary, weights and measurements, price interpretation and other skills. They spend the next two hours applying what they’ve learned.
Ana Tello always enjoyed cooking for her family in Colombia and, since moving to the United States 18 months ago, is excited to learn new recipes.
“You use the same ingredients but in different combinations,” Tello said. “There’s a lot more fast food here.”
Delfa Forero, from Bogota, said likes the structure of the class.
“We’re learning English while cooking,” she said. “It makes learning fun. The teacher makes it fun.”
From beef stroganoff to pizza and banana bread — including alternatives with soy or tofu — students learn a variety of cuisine and cooking techniques.
“I like what I’ve learned about food, especially the cake decorating,” said Angelia Cervantes. “The ones that you buy at the store are too sweet but ours are delicious.”
They also have a multicultural day when students bring in dishes from their native country.
“They’re constantly teaching me new things,” Struble said. “We share a lot.”
Teachers and students agree the main ingredient of the class, however, is learning the language.
“I need to speak English,” said Maria Franchini, who works in day care. “I need it for my job and to be able to communicate with all people.”
As the final class, students prepared a picnic for college faculty members Friday with dishes ranging from taco salad to muffins and cookies.