La Luz has recently launched “Language Buddies,” an English-Spanish conversation group that meets from 9 to 10 a.m. every Thursday in La Luz Center’s Booker Hall.

Attendees speak English for the first half hour, then switch to Spanish for the second half-hour. It’s a cross-cultural experience, an opportunity for English-speakers to encourage and support the many ESL students studying at La Luz Center, and a chance for those wanting to practice their Spanish to gets lots of “real world” experience. The class even has participants from Nepal – practicing both English and Spanish.

“It’s a win-win morning,” said Alyson Therres, La Luz Center volunteer coordinator who participated in a similar group while she was teaching English in Costa Rica. “Our ESL students are so motivated to learn, and they need the opportunity to get comfortable with English by speaking.At Language Buddies, they feel it’s OK to make mistakes, and they enjoy helping each other. “

Just four weeks in operation, Language Buddies has grown each week and now has more than 20 participants.

“We’re hoping to get more English-speakers to come practice their Spanish. That makes a really fun dynamic in the group,” said Therres.

“This is a chance to make friends, even if you only learn a few words,” says attendee Juanita Padilla, a dedicated fourth-year ESL student. “If you stay at home – no new words, just cleaning and work.Here you get self-esteem and you develop security. Your children see you differently.We should all come to this class.”

Nancy Bruce, who participated recently, called it “a simple, fun way to practice my Spanish and meet nice people.”

“Language Buddies” is open to all, on a drop-in basis; it is free and no reservations are necessary. Free childcare is also provided.

La Luz Center is located at 17560 Greger St. in Boyes Hot Springs.Call Therres at 938-5131, ext. 108 for additional information.

The mission of La Luz is to empower the community through education, leadership and self-advocacy.