The winners of the first Spanish language bee were, from left, Koia Krenz, third place, Abner Casiano, winner, and Julia Shui, second place. Casiano won the bee by going 28 rounds without missing a single word.

Language learning proved to be lots of fun at The Purple School Spanish language bee Thursday afternoon.

The Purple School is a language immersion program started by Joyce Nadolny-Shui. She began the school in Seattle, and the program has spread to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

She started by teaching Chinese and the school now encompasses nine languages. Nadolny-Shui moved to Williston five years ago and started The Purple School here in January. The program is currently only in Spanish, with plans for Chinese classes to start in September.

There are toddler and preschool programs held at Williston State College and within the curriculum at the Ekblad Development Center, a childcare facility. The elementary age program is held after school at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

The language bee competition was for the elementary students. Families came to watch their children compete for cash prizes. First place won $100, second $50 and third $25. Walmart and American State Bank donated the money.

Silvia Zubke, one of the teachers who is originally from Columbia, asked students to say the name of animals and colors in Spanish while a picture was displayed on a screen. If the student said the correct answer, they would cross to a row of chairs on the other side of the room. When the next round started, they would cross back to the other side.

Students were given three popsicle sticks, which were their lifelines. If they made a mistake or didn’t know the answer, they could use one stick. When they used their last stick, they were eliminated.

The competition started with seven students. After 12 rounds of animals, four students were left. First place was determined when the other three students missed a color, two being eliminated on turquoise and one being eliminated on hot pink.

Abner Casiano won the language bee with all three of his lifelines left. Casiano’s mother Sheila has Hispanic background, but Casiano didn’t know Spanish very well before starting studying through the Purple School. His non-Hispanic father Matt knows more Spanish than he does. His Spanish has improved, according to his mother. He didn’t speak in complete sentences before.

“I feel great,” said Casiano. “At first I thought it was boring, but now it’s fun.”

He has used visual tricks to remember vocabulary.

“Every single time I get one wrong my mom spells it out for me,” he said.

All of the students received certificates for their hard work in the language bee. Troy Chon completed two rounds, Jason Chon completed four, Andy Holland completed five and Kacey Cavazo completed 27. Kois Krenz won third place, completing 27 rounds, Julia Shui won second place completing 28, and Casiano won first place, completing 28.

The Purple School teaches curriculum in 31 different areas.

Students earn wristbands for accomplishing goals in language learning. Nadolny-Shui started The Purple School in 2001 “as a way for my own kids to learn other languages.” The nine languages that the purple school teaches across the country are Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.

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