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FOCUS : Good morning, Buenos dias, Choa em , Buon giorno . . .

September 21, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Echoes of more than 70 different exotic phrases have resounded throughout the halls of the College Park Elementary School, thanks to its English-assimilation instruction programs. The school is one of two elementary schools in Irvine offering ESL (English as a Second Language) courses to students.

Because of the influx of immigrants into Southern California, the need for bilingual and ESL learning became a must at the school five years ago. At the College Park school, on Chaparral Avenue, there are two ESL magnet classes--one class for grades one through three and the other for grades four through six.

The ESL magnet program involves teaching children, in English, who have very little or no interpretation or comprehension of the language. Most of the instruction is done through visual aids and constant repetition. This concept is sometimes tagged "motherly." The one-semester (nine months) program is "orally intensive," says Maureen Terry, who taught an ESL class for two years at College Park and is now reinitiating an interactive video class for the Irvine Unified School District. "Children are like sponges--you'd be surprised how quickly they absorb everything. As long as you make their environment comfortable, the atmosphere relaxed and use the hands-on approach, they'll be eager to learn."

When students use their native language, educators give them an example in English rather than scolding them. Teachers have found this technique encourages the children to use English while respecting their native tongue.

Kathy Allard was among the first to teach and assist in instituting this program five years ago at the College Park school.

"I love teaching children," she said. "I couldn't do it if I didn't. They bring me great joy. This summer to get a better understanding of the culture of the majority of my students, I went to Japan."

Allard has 27 children in her class--15 are Japanese, three are Taiwanese, three are Latino, two are Italian, one is Costa Rican, one is Lebanese, one is Vietnamese and one is Norwegian.

The College Park/Colony and its environs does include other properties along with its unusual and highly-acclaimed school. The Colony area is northeast of Walnut Avenue and was built in three phases 16 years ago, The Colony, Colony I and Colony II. Four different styles of homes are situated on streets given such names as Hemingway, Steinbeck and Wyeth. For the Colony residents' convenience, there is the Walnut Village Center (a mini-shopping center) at Culver Drive and Walnut Avenue.

Southwest of Walnut Avenue is the College Park residential tract. But don't expect to find street signs with college names; they don't exist. Instead, they have been given names of trees.

About a mile away, both sides of Jamboree Boulevard are lined with acres of vacant space, with the exception of a few trucks, pieces of equipment and a pile of rocks being stored there. The Irvine Co., which owns the land, has no development plans at present.

For the entire community's pleasure, a 20.4-acre park--Harvard Community Athletic Park--has been on Harvard Avenue for 12 years now. It is a multipurpose facility with a snack bar, lighted softball, baseball and soccer fields, and a community building where meetings and other neighborhood functions are held.

Population Total: (1989 est.) 6,142 1980-88 change: +24.3% Median Age: 34.3 Racial/ethnic mix: White: (non-Latino) 78% Latino: 9% Black: 1% Other: 12% By sex and age: In hundreds MALES Median age: 33.8 years FEMALES Median age: 34.6 years Income Per capita: $15,685 Median household: $47,198 Average household: $49,838 Income Distribution: Less than $25,000 12% $50,000-74,999 31% $25,000-49,999 46% More than $75,000 11%

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