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Former comedian hosts radio show for Hispanics

Special Photo Virginia Smith, front, sits with Karen Michelle, Edgar Contreras and Cesar Ruiz in the studio of La Mega 96.5 FM to promote a new Sunday morning radio show called "English with Energy."

Special Photo Virginia Smith, front, sits with Karen Michelle, Edgar Contreras and Cesar Ruiz in the studio of La Mega 96.5 FM to promote a new Sunday morning radio show called "English with Energy."

SUWANEE -- A Sunday morning radio show hosted by a middle school Spanish teacher who once tried stand-up comedy debuted recently on a station based in Suwanee.

Virginia Smith, a Sugar Hill resident who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade Spanish at Lanier Middle School, hosts "English with Energy" on La Mega 96.5 FM from 7:30 to 8 a.m., which can be heard around most parts of Gwinnett County. The station also streams programming online at lamegaatlanta.com. The program is designed for Hispanics of Gwinnett, and Smith hopes it's interactive between herself and listeners who call in, as Smith teaches basic phrases around a weekly theme.

Most of the station's programming is tropical young pop music, Smith said, and added that about 80 percent of its audience is bilingual.

Smith, who took a six-week course on standup comedy and briefly performed at an open mic night in Decatur, said humor would be a big part of the show.

As for her comedy career?

"I wasn't great, but nobody was booing," she said.

Smith earned degrees in theater and public speaking from Valdosta State, but was introduced to Spanish in high school in Griffin. Smith said she used to bother family members with a Spanish grammar book on family vacations.

Along with the radio show, Smith is also president of a nonprofit organization called ESOL World Outreach, which parters with churches to offer English and Spanish classes.

Smith said she hopes the radio show reaches people who may have been intimidated or fatigued with learning languages in school, or a mother home with children who may not have time to practice otherwise.

"It's about building relationships with each other," Smith said. "I think that's the whole reason people learn a language."

Eventually, Smith hopes the show sparks interest in listeners helping other people learn a new language, and then passing on those skills.

"Once I've created that kind of relationship, I have a lot of plans of meeting with each other, and people doing things together," she said.

The show will also be recorded on video so people can watch it at their convenience, and learn through repetition, Smith said.