By Barbara McMurray, special for the Laguna Beach Independent
“Bravo, come on, bene!” (“Wow, how good you speak!”) Sean Cook heard this often as a young man fulfilling his post-college dream of living in Italy in the 1990s. No matter how clumsy, absurd his attempts to speak were or unwittingly X-rated, he found the Italian people infinitely generous and indulgent for his blunders.
“Love the language, don’t learn it because you need it for a job, for certification, or because it’s good for your brain. If you like it, that’s enough. And never let anyone tell you that a language is useless.
The lesson of effusive encouragement stayed with him. Fast forward nearly three decades, and Cook’s new Laguna Beach-based online language school, Ciao Languages, is rooted in positive reinforcement and empathy, which he sees as powerful motivators for doing more. effort.
During his 27 years in Florence, Cook met and married his Sardinian wife, Patrizia Amati, in 2002, and had two sons, Jan, 14, and Thomas, 17. After working on a business plan for a few years, he returned to Laguna Beach with his family in mid-July. They enrolled the boys in Laguna Beach High School and now live next door to his mother and stepfather, Pam and Al Oligino. Together with a partner in Taiwan, Cook and Amati run the newly launched family business together. Amati also teaches Italian to her clients in person.
Cook has extensive experience in running language schools. In addition to working as an English teacher since 1994, he also owned and managed a foreign language school in Italy for 18 years. Although he does not consider himself a polyglot, he is fluent in Italian, conversational French and knows “a handful of phrases” in German and Japanese. He is currently studying Mandarin, online of course.
Ciao Languages courses – in French, German, Italian, Spanish and many more – are offered exclusively online via Zoom video conferencing with native-speaking teachers. “The Ciao Languages course catalog is constantly updated and is intended for frequent and recurring consultation,” Cook said.
“We have an extensive global network and can find any teacher for any language a student wishes to learn,” he noted. “Our goal is to help students begin to understand and speak a new language immediately. A variety of levels and schedule options are offered so students can learn on their own schedule.
Ciao’s classmates, Cook said, interact together online once or twice a week and encourage each other. Services include assessment, access to digital and non-digital content, live online lessons with language coaches, and feedback to encourage and guide students as they progress to fluent speaker level .
The company only hires native speakers who share an enthusiasm for getting learners up and running in their new language.
“We strive to make the online environment as human as possible,” Cook said. “We use modern teaching techniques with lots of helpful slides that encourage the student to talk as much as possible and practice as much as they can. We want students to have a real communicative experience, to be able to express themselves in a foreign language.
Rejecting theories about the pragmatic benefits of being bilingual, Cook could be called a passionate purist for his belief in the only real reason for acquiring a new language: love.
“I love the language,” he said. “Don’t learn it because you need it for a job, for certification, or because it’s good for your brain. If you like it, that’s enough. And never let anyone tell you that a language is useless.
Getting his fledgling business off the ground means Cook is teaching again, even though he was used to a staff of 14 when he sold his business in Italy. Two mornings a week at 5 a.m., he now sits at his computer, teaching English to a group of Taiwanese students.
Soon, he added, Ciao Languages will unveil a partnership with a digital content provider that will provide students with more home practice opportunities and new ways to explore their love of languages. (ciaolanguages.com)
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