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Immigrants Taught English at Inwood Laundry

By Ben Fractenberg | August 1, 2011 6:44am | Updated on August 1, 2011 8:50am

INWOOD — Don't wash your delicates with hot water and be careful conjugating that verb.

A group of Inwood residents is mixing its dirty washing with language by learning English while they do their laundry.

Artist Hector Canonge is offering a chance for more than 20 Spanish speakers to take free English classes at  the Magic Touch Laundromat on Thayer Street, near Nagle Avenue.

"[The project] is based on what happens in laundromats with new immigrants," said Canonge, who will teach the sessions over four weeks.

"Many were having problems asking for change, or understanding the machines."

While he was doing his own laundry, Canonge, who lives in Inwood, said he saw people struggling with basic English and was inspired to help.

Magic Touch employee Rosa Alonzo, 28, said the classes — titled "The Inwood Laundromat Language Institute" will also help immigrants working long hours.

"Sometimes the people don’t have time to go to school to take a class," said Alonzo. 

Canonge said some people questioned how teaching English can be considered an artistic project.

"The idea is exploring a classroom as art," he said.  "A classroom can be art. Art can be a classroom."

Residents registered for the classes last week.

The first session will start Tuesday, Aug. 2, and will run through Sept. 1. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in two sessions: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.