The world is now well into January, but it’s never too late to think about how to make the most of the New Year.
the New York Post recently listed “Learning a new language” as number 35 on its list of 50 ideas for New Year’s resolutions. Popular online resources like Duolingo and Pimsleur offer accessible grammar and listening exercises in dozens of languages, but practicing conversation is key to improving your language skills.
Costa Mesa Language School Portal languages is again offering in-person tutoring after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted them to move online, although most of their classes are still delivered via Zoom. Children and adults can enroll in courses on the school’s website and specify whether they would like to have in-person or virtual tutoring.
Spanish teacher and school principal, Maria Laura D’Angelo, explained that the tutoring sessions allow students to practice the speaking and listening skills necessary for learning.
“It’s all in the target language,” D’Angelo said. “You have to immerse yourself in the language and think in the language.”
Portal Languages offers private lessons for 22 different European and Asian languages, as well as American Sign Language. D’Angelo said the most popular courses are for Spanish, French, Italian and Mandarin Chinese.
All Portal Languages instructors are native speakers. Office manager and Italian teacher Daniela Tanzini explained that this gives students the best opportunities to speak and listen.
“The experience we give, having native speakers, is very valuable because you have an interaction with someone,” Tanzini said. “You can learn grammar, but if you don’t practice conversation with someone, it’s hard to have the language in your brain.”
Portal Languages instructors use a teaching method called Natural Approach. Lots of Orange Coast College world languages teachers also use this method with their students, including Spanish teacher Jeff Brown.
“The natural approach means we don’t explicitly teach grammar in the classroom,” Brown said. “We want students to acquire language naturally, like a baby acquires their first language.”
Although most Portal Languages students are children, the school offers lessons for everyone, whether they are learning a language for the first time or practicing what they already know. OCC Spanish teacher Jocelyn Sherman Falcioni said she encourages her students to seek outside resources for greater exposure to the language.
“What you get in class is great, but it’s not 100 percent of the time in Spanish, and it’s only five days a week,” Sherman Falcioni said. “It is very important to practice speaking and listening as much as possible.”
D’Angelo started Portal Languages in Costa Mesa in 2008. Today the school has three other locations in Fullerton, Mission Viejo and San Diego.
“In California especially, people are interested in languages,” D’Angelo said. “We try to bring something positive to the community.”