FAQ – about our language classes

How often do your classes meet?

All our classes are ten weeks long and meet once a week. Evening classes are always 75 minutes long, while weekday daytime classes are 60 minutes to accommodate people who have to go back to work.

Where are the classes held?

Classes meet in one of our beautiful bookstores, not in a stuffy classroom with fluorescent lighting. Manhattan classes are held at our flagship store at 12 West 19th Street, near Union Square. Our Brooklyn classes meet at our new bookshop at 249 Warren Street (between Court and Smith) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Are the teachers native speakers? What kind of teaching experience do they have?

Yes, all our teachers are native speakers. Our Italian teachers are from Italy, our French teachers are from France, and our Spanish teacher is from Colombia, whose speakers are considered to have the clearest, most neutral accent in Latin America. We believe that a native speaker of a language is the best person to answer questions about colloquial usage and the culture, and to model correct pronunciation.

In terms of experience, all our teachers have taught for several years in New York, both at renowned language schools (including Berlitz, The Rennert School, and Parliamo Italiano) and privately. As a result, they are familiar with the typical strengths and weaknesses of Americans studying a Romance language.

How do the classes work?

Our teachers use a communicative method that emphasizes conversation and interaction. As a travel bookstore, we find that most of our clients are interested in practical usage — to be able to make conversation, order in a restaurant, and speak and understand with confidence while traveling — and not just to learn to say “The cat is on the table” (although you’ll learn that too!)

Our classes include a combination of teacher presentation and student practice and participation. Each week, the teacher will present and review a grammar or thematic topic, linking the lesson to real-life situations wherever possible. After the material is presented, the students may practice speaking in pairs or groups, followed by a review with the entire class.

In the first lesson of the Beginner Spanish class, for example, students learn the present tense of the verbs ser (to be) and vivir (to live) and some basic vocabulary by introducing themselves to the group (“Soy Clara. Soy abogada. Vivo en Brooklyn.”) After the students introduce themselves to the group in this way, they break into pairs and describe themselves to their partners using the words and concepts they have just learned. Then, they present their partner to the group. (“Clara es abogada. Vive en Brooklyn en un edificio grande.”) By the end of the lesson, they have acquired new vocabulary and have learned, among other things, how to describe themselves and to conjugate two new verbs in the first and third person.

What kind of materials are used? Is there homework?

Our beginner and advanced beginner classes follow a textbook, and each class usually corresponds to one chapter in the book. Students are advised to review the material on their own between classes for at least one hour per week.

The same textbook is used for both levels of our classes (we use the Ultimate Language series, which contains 40 chapters). We offer the book for sale to students for $18.00 including tax, more than 20% off the cover price..

How do I know which level is right for me?

Our beginner classes are for absolute beginners or for people who know a bit of the language but who studied it a very long time ago or just want to start again from scratch to make sure they don’t have any gaps. Our classes move pretty quickly and, unlike many language classes people took in school, really focus on speaking and understanding so even people who have some familiarity with a language get a lot out of our beginner classes and are not bored.

Our advanced beginner classes are for people who have studied more recently, either with us or in a similar course. More advanced grammar is presented and the classes incorporate more speaking practice. Before the end of the course, each student is expected to give a short, two-minute presentation on a topic of their choice and to answer questions about it from the group. (Sounds scary but you can do it! It’s fun!)

Our Comics and Conversation class is for people who can speak and understand at a basic level and are looking to enhance conversational fluency. These classes build comprehension and speaking through the weekly reading and discussion of three original-language graphic novels (including Tintin in French, Corto Maltese in Italian, etc). Comics are a great way to build colloquial language skills as they are almost pure dialogue, and the classes are a lot of fun. Students should be able to speak and understand reasonably well, even if they make some mistakes, as the classes are conducted entirely in the language of study.

In French, we are also offering a Literature and Conversation class in our Manhattan store, in which students read three short crime novels (including a Maigret story by Georges Simenon). This spring, we are also offering a French Intermediate course for students who have completed Advanced Beginner but feel they need a bridge class, with grammar review, before moving onto one of our conversation classes.

If you still have questions about which level might be right for you, fill out the question box to the right!

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