Friday, March 23, 2012

Speaking to the Music by Sara Carranza

Whenever people are trying to get to know one another, there is one question that almost always eventually comes up, especially here in the States, and there are many different ways to ask it. What ethnicity are you? What nationality are you? Where’s your family from? Many people then start to divulge the ingredients to their American cocktail, each rightfully said with pride. My ingredients are quite simple. Mix a little Mexico and a little United States together, and you get: Sara Carranza.

I am first generation Mexican-American. Whereas my brother’s first language was Spanish, my first and only language growing up was English. Basically, I knew my ingredients but had absolutely no idea what they meant to me or what they symbolized to others. It took a while to start figuring it out, but my first steps towards understanding who I was, was by learning the Spanish language.

Learning Spanish is a blur to me. I would like to say that it just happened one day, but it was a slow arduous process that I can’t even remember. All I know is that the first word of Spanish I remember learning is “Corazon”.  I was in the backseat with my high tech Walkman listening to a cassette tape by Los Temerarios, while my parents were driving my brother and myself to another one of our extracurricular activities.  How I got the tape is a mystery, but what I do know is that I couldn’t stop listening to one song in particular: “Corazon de otro”. Before I knew what was happening I was asking my mom what the words meant. By the end of the week…I understood the entire song. From knowing nothing, I understood something. Not just the words, but also the style of music and the feelings it evoked. Music gave me my first glimpse into my Mexican-American culture and continues to give me more each day. I can honestly say I spent four years taking high school Spanish and I spent many summers visiting family in Mexico, but the only time my Spanish continues to grow is when I lose myself in music. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Armenian Myths - From the Viewpoint of an Expatriate by Brian Bokhart

Since my arrival in Armenia, I have been given advice on a lot of things, such as when to get married (before 30 or else you will never marry), where not to sit (on the ground as it will make you infertile & at the corner of a table because it means you will not get married) or when to drink vodka (all the time).  

My favorite Armenian myth (up to this point in my stay) was brought to my attention a few weeks ago for the celebration of St. Sargis Day (the Armenian equivalent of Valentine's Day) by my Armenian language teacher, Gayane.  That day at class she asked if I wanted them to pick me up a cookie for St. Sargis Day.  Not hearing anything but the word cookie, I replied with a resounding "YES!!!", only to discover that this cookie was not a cookie in the American sense of the word, but a salty piece of dough that was a tool not only to guarantee a killer thirst, but to determine your future spouse.  Yes, Chips Ahoy ain't got nothing on these cookies.  

You see, the myth states that you are to eat the cookie before bed without drinking anything along with it.  That night, if you are served water by someone in your dreams, that person is to be your future spouse.  Oh, and if you want more confidence in this act, you just need to place a full glass of water next to your bed with a mirror over the top of it.  This will not only provide a great night stand accessory, but is believed by Armenians to provide a clearer recollection of the visitor in your dreams.  

Have an entertaining story about your time abroad?  Email us at and we will consider posting your tale on our blog!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Looking Ahead to 2012 Language Classes

Our center had an extremely successful summer and fall.  Thanks to everyone who participated in summer and fall group language classes!  Due to the overwhelming popularity of our Language for Travelers classes, we opened additional sessions for Spanish, French, German and Italian in order to make sure that everyone was able to participate. 

We have been busy planning for our 2012 group classes.  To meet the needs of our students, we will be offering expanded class schedules.  In preparation for this, we are currently making some changes to the registration process on our website.  These modifications should be completed by the second week of December, at which point we will begin accepting registration for our January group classes online.  Anyone interested in finalizing registration sooner can contact the inlingua administration and we will gladly email you the 2012 course details and a registration form.

Students interested in taking private language classes may register for classes year round.  In fact, inlingua Chicago is currently offering a fantastic deal for Yelp users.  If you visit the inlingua Chicago language school in order to finalize your registration and use the Yelp check-in function on your mobile device, you will receive registration and our basic materials package free of charge!  See the inlingua Chicago Yelp ad for details.   (Must be viewed on a mobile device.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Succeed at Learning a New Language

We have spoken with many people over the years who have been genuinely surprised that learning a new language requires a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of the learner.  Unfortunately, we just do not have the technology to zap a new language into the brain...yet.  In the meantime, here are some tips for succeeding at your language learning goals.

Step 1:  Set Realistic Goals
Before you register for a language class, take the time to meet with a Program Coordinator at the school.  Program Coordinators are knowledgable about what it takes to achieve language mastery.  It is important for the school to understand why you are interested in learning a language, what your personal expectations and goals are for the course and how much time you can dedicate to taking classes.  Based on this information, the Coordinator will talk with you about the different proficiency levels and can organize a plan to help you achieve your language goals. 

Step 2:  Regularly Attend Your Language Classes
Students who attend language classes on a consistent weekly basis have a much higher success rate than students who have sporadic attendence records.  Our recommendation is to meet 1-3 times per week for at least an hour and a half each session for students with non-urgent language learning needs. 

Step 3:  Participate in Class
To master a new language, you have to practice speaking the new language.  In inlingua classrooms, our students speak approximately 70% of the classtime.  This is designed to help give students the confidence to speak when they encounter real life situation where communicating in the new language is required.  Every student is going to make speaking mistakes while they are learning their new language.  Putting aside your pride and participating will allow the teacher to identify areas that need more improvement. 

Step 4:  Complete Homework & Review Between Classes
Every student needs to review and complete homework outside of class to achieve mastery in their new language.  Students who do not review the materials outside of class have much lower retention rates and spend a far greater amount of time reviewing previously learned material in their class sessions.  Reviewing and completing homework will not only accelerate your rate of learning, but you will also save money in the long run since less class sessions are required to reach their proficiency goals for students who are reviewing in between sessions.

Step 5:  Interact 
If you know native speakers of  the language that you are learning, try to communicate with them.  Most people are flattered (and patient!) when others attempt to communicate with them in their native language.  Try watching a television station that broadcasts in the language you are learning or listen to a radio broadcast.  The inlingua School of Languages offers an internet based pen pal program that allows students to interact with students who speak the language that they are learning.  The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with communicating in your new language!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Motivating Factors & Solutions for Learning a New Language

At inlingua, we meet people everyday who have a very specific need for learning a new language.  Today we will take a closer look at some of the factors that motivate Chicagoans to learn new languages and the approaches that they take. 

Many students who participate in language classes have a short term goal in mind.  Below are some examples of short term language learners.

  • Vacation/ Travel - Whether its' a spring break trip to Mexico or a family vacation to Europe, it's much more fun to order your dinner and ask for directions in the native tongue!  Many students participate in our 4 week Language for Travelers program which provides an introduction to some survival language skills prior to traveling.  For travelers with a bit more time prior to departure, an 8 week option is also available.
  • Test preparation/ Supplemental tutoring - High school and college students work with inlingua language trainers prior to an upcoming test to help improve their scores.  Other students require TOEFL preparation or assistance with country specific examinations for college admission requirements or immigration purposes.
  • Preparation for Relocation - Many professionals in Chicago find that they are given a short turn-around time prior to an international move.  Our center starts them towards accomplishing their goals. A number of program solutions are available for this category.  Choose from intensive training or create a flexible schedule.  Many relocating professionals continue with further training at another inlingua center in their destination after completing the move.
Now let's examine some of the reasons that motivate our long-term language learners.
  • Professional Advancement - A rising number of professionals in Chicago have identified a need for adding language skills to their resume to give them a competitve edge in the workforce.   Spanish, Chinese and Japanese are among the most popular classes to take for this category.  Many of these students are taking classes with specialized vocababulary that is relevant for their professional field. 
  • Business Travel/ Interaction - Many professionals in Chicago work for organizations with an international reach.  To improve their relationships with their counterparts and customers outside of the United States, many companies are investing training dollars to give employees valuable communication skills.  Many corporations, non-profits and government entities coordinate with inlingua to offer programs that take place at the workplace so that employees have a minimal interruption to their work day.  In Chicago, we have seen a high demand in this category for Spanish classes, Chinese classes, Japanese classes and Portuguese classes.
  • Family and Heritage Learners - A large percentage of our students have been motivated to take a language class because they want to share in the linguistic and cultural heritage of a loved one.  We also have cases where a learner has grown up speaking another language in their household but has never studied the language formally. Many of the people in this category wish to formalize their language skills, expand their vocabulary and/or improve their communication skills for a specific vocational need.  
This, of course, is merely a partial list of motivating factors.  Whatever the reason, inlingua has proven programs to meet the needs of language learners today.  Feeling motivated to start learning a new language?  Email us for more information at: