Eat Your Words

Learning a new language can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but the team at Cooking Up English shows that pairing new vocabulary with food can make it easier to digest. This local nonprofit has been teaching nonnative speakers English through cooking classes since 2010, and launched a new series in May, Cooking Up Spanish, for people who want to learn Spanish while also mastering the cuisines of Spain, Mexico and Latin America.

“Learning a new language is about more than memorizing words,” says board president Casey Smith. “You learn so much history and the values of a community through food. It helps people connect the culture with the language.”

Cooking Up Spanish offers five different themed series, each five weeks in length. Students learn common Spanish phrases and terms while making traditional dishes like homemade tortillas, chilaquiles, pan dulce and tapas.

Six volunteers excited to share their language and food with non-Spanish speakers teach the classes, with the help of three guest instructors who are former Cooking Up English students. Each series costs $175, and 40 percent of the fee underwrites the tuition of Cooking Up English classes, which are priced on a sliding scale based on income.

The popularity of the Spanish series has sparked development of more foreign-language classes with help from former students. “The last week of the English classes, we ask students to provide a recipe from their home country,” says Smith. “With students representing over 15 countries and 11 languages, we realized we could create classes for more than Spanish.”

Cooking Up English will continue its Spanish series in 2014, and also launch French, Russian and Arabic classes. In addition, they’re actively working on a curriculum for a Mandarin class, which will round out a full program offering of the six official languages of the United Nations—one delicious word at a time.

Find out more at

—Kristi Willis

What We're Cooking

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