Fluent City: The coolest way to learn a new language as an adult

Fluent City: The coolest way to learn a new language as an adult

International Education Language Study Abroad Travel

Last April at NYC Tech Day 2015, I stumbled on the language company Fluent City amidst a sea of tech and finance startups. I was positively giddy to find out they exist. As French major whose language exposure is now limited to foreign friend’s Facebook updates, Fluent City offers those who have relapsed in their language skills an easy way to reconnect with their old languages or start brand new ones. Imagine practicing your Spanish over wine and cheese pairings. Or learning Mandarin with a teacher cool enough to have a beer with after class. Fluent City teaches “old school in-person classes … taught in an awesome and refreshing new school way.” They bring together all the globally curious people for language learning and cultural celebration. They’re also probably the most fun you’ll have in language class.

I spoke with Mandy Menaker from Fluent City to learn more about all the ways they’re bringing language lovers together to celebrate culture!

What’s the difference between your language school and taking a course at a university?
Courses at the university level are usually quite formal. You may come away knowing the grammar but you don’t always come away with the vocabulary and the conversation skills that you need to travel. Our role is to enable our students to walk into a bar and buy someone a drink, ask where the bathroom is located, and figure out how to get to their hostel in a foreign language. They get conversation skills they actually need while hopefully not sounding like a foreigner while doing it.

As adults we don’t have that many opportunities to take language and culture classes.
Absolutely and that’s what so cool about this. With our classes you are introduced to culture while meeting like minded individuals in your neighborhood. You may come in with the idea of taking a class to meet people in Spain or France but when you’re here you’re meeting people that are interested in travel and culture who are looking to expand their horizons as well.

What are the language classes like?
Our classes are fun. We put personable, energetic, approachable teachers in front of our classroom. They are the kind of people you want to get a drink with after class. Our classes are about putting interesting people with interesting teaches so they can learn the language and do interesting things. We focus on making classes approachable. I think a lot of people have a fear of language because it seems scary. I’m not a language person because I’m terrible at it. But I love language and I’ve taken Spanish, Hebrew and I’m about to start Italian with my boyfriend. So if I can have fun with them, anyone can. We also structure the classes so they fit into your existing schedule. We have classes on weeknights and afterwork at convenient locations. We also have weekend options for flexible schedules.

What types of people try your classes?
We are open to anyone that is open to cultures. People take our classes for work because they want to use the language with their international clients. We’ve worked with the Red Cross in DC to help them communicate better with diverse communities. We even have couples who are marrying across cultures take our classes because they want to communicate better in the kitchen. They’re trying to impress in-laws. They’re meeting grandma for the first time and want to fit into the families. What’s so fun is that it’s not just open to travelers.

In addition to language classes you also offer events like international scavenger hunts, cooking classes, and film nights. Are you a language company or a cultural events company?
We are definitely a language company. The original owner is a Southern boy from Georgia who went to France and fell in love with it. He moved back to Brooklyn and wanted to be able to go to classes and share the culture. But there wasn’t really anything happening in the city that was fun. There were language classes but they were very structured and expensive. Since he spoke enough French he decided to teach his friends. He taught classes in his living room under the name “Sam Teaches French.” People loved it and starting asking if he offered other languages so he eventually brought on other teachers. There was so much interest that he had to move the classes of his living room and Fluent City in its current form was born.

language class brooklyn

Happy and relaxed language learners!

How are the languages incorporated into your cultural events?
We have cultural events, movie screenings, cooking classes, things that allow you to put your language skills to practice. Having a casual atmosphere helps you feel more comfortable. But more important than trying the language is that when classes go out together they really form a bond that helps them connect with each other. Students tend to stay with the program longer when they’ve connected with their classmates and teacher. We also have events in English. We offer a mix of both because we want students to practice their language but don’t want them to be excluded from events just because they don’t speak the language. We do panels with a focus on topics like how to start a travel blog, how to take your startup global, and how to volunteer abroad.

You offer Mandarin, Russian and Hebrew among others as language learning opportunities. How do you choose which languages to offer?
We started with French and Spanish because people take them in high school so they have a background in them. It’s intimidating to start something new as an adult. It’s easier to start a language that you know a bit about. They’re popular languages. But some people are the opposite and will purposefully pick Japanese because they want to start from the beginning and learn something new. We also did some surveys to find out what language people were into and now we offer 10 languages.

With so many options, where should a language lover start?
Our open houses are perfect for curious people and their friends. They offer a chance for people to experience our classes. We do a free 45-minute workshop with donuts and coffee and they’re a ton of fun. It’s often a mix of potential students and current students who are interested in a taking an additional language. People come out because who doesn’t want a free 45-minute language workshop and brunch!? I love running the open houses!

Browse language classes by location and learn more about Fluent City at www.fluentcity.com.

My Most Awkward Public Speaking Mistake and How I Lived to Tell the Tale


public speaking survival tips

I am a public speaking junkie. I relish any chance to speak to an audience. I even teach public speaking to support people who are tasked with infotaining the masses. Despite over a decade of speaking, I still make mistakes. I’ve messed up in ridiculous ways. Ten years ago I tripped over a cord into a stumbling, slow motion fall in front of a class of high school seniors. Another time I completed a 45 minute workshop only to realize my zipper was down the whole time. When you make a habit of public speaking, mistakes are inevitable. But none have been as awkward as a presentation I made last year at a Greater Seattle Business Association event.

The setting: A Seattle brewery with around 50 friendly young professionals who were well into their second or third drink. I spoke from a stage about four feet above the crowd.

The task: Ten minutes to give an engaging talk on practical networking tips like how to create conversation with strangers and how to politely exit dead end conversations.

Three minutes into my talk I hit my stride, eager to deliver my first and most important tip. Somewhere between the sentences “If you remember one thing from this talk, remember this” and “Put your phone away!” chaos interrupted: a deep thud followed immediately by a massive crash, culminating in the clatter of silverware raining down on a cement floor. In my excitement and ferocious gesturing I had kicked a speaker box off the stage and sent it crashing into the staging cart holding the evening’s allotment of silverware.

A second after the destruction I stared confused at a crowd full of wide-eyed faces and audible gasps. Two seconds after the chaos I kneeled down to apologize to the server who was hurriedly cleaning up the disaster. By the fourth second, I returned to the crowd as stifled giggles evolved into outright laughter.

They were totally laughing at me.

Five seconds after the initial crash, I was cracking up right along with them. The situation was absurd. I had no idea I was strong enough to kick a speaker off a stage. I was unaware how excited my legs could get in a presentation.

Then I kept going. I acknowledged how ridiculous and awkward my disaster was, still giggling, and returned to my talk. And that was that. I eventually got my point across. I was even offered another speaking gig from an audience member who had witnessed the spectacle. People probably went home and gossiped about the woman they saw drop kick a speaker off a stage. I hope they acted out my kick with flare and pantomimed my deer-in-headlights look as they shared the story with their significant other.

In public speaking, people’s fear of mistakes can be paralyzing. To conquer the fear you need a plan for after the mistake. So here’s a plan: acknowledge and keep going.

Forget your words and stare blankly at the audience? Take a breathe and keep going. Bomb a joke? Keep going. Throw in a smile or a laugh to break up the silence. Keep a few emergency phrases in your back pocket like “I hate when that happens” or “Well that’s not how I practiced it” or my favorite, “that was awkward” to help you move on. By acknowledging the situation and moving forward you humanize yourself, putting the audience and eventually yourself at ease.

Mistakes happen. Even the best speakers make them. We’re human. So just own it and keep going. And who knows, maybe your public speaking mistake will make for a hilarious battle story during your next dinner party or at the very least, a dramatic blog headline.


Translation has never looked more beautiful

Translation has never looked more beautiful

Language Travel

Anjana Iyer is a talented media designer out of Auckland, New Zealand. As part of a 100 days project, she took one word a day from foreign languages that can not be translated directly into English and illustrated them. The result Found in Translation an absolute visual delight for language fans. Here are a few of my favorites.

See more of these on Behance and visit her website for more of her illustrations.





Are you a language expert? Test yourself with this addicting language game

Are you a language expert? Test yourself with this addicting language game

International students Language

This weekend I was in New York and played my favorite solo game, Name that Language! Which basically means I sit around listening to all the languages and guess which one it is. New York City is the best city for this game as you can’t even go a single subway ride without hearing a language that isn’t English. It’s a fabulous way to pass a long subway ride and its worth removing your headphones to play.

Now I no longer need to be in NYC to play it as I just found t The Great Language Game, a seriously addicting online language game. The premise is simple. Listen to the language clips, pick the corresponding language. It starts easy enough, offering a few choices of languages from familiar language families.

Language Game

But the more you guess the harder it gets with more language choices and more obscure languages. I had no idea what Kannada or Dinka when I was presented with those languages.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.49.54 AM

This game is a great way to procrastinate your afternoon away. Or challenge your American friends to see how they do with foreign languages. Whoever loses has to cook the other a meal.