At Speak! Language Center, our primary mission is to educate, inspire and empower people through language, culture and community. Based in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia with a network of partners at home and abroad, Speak! offers an ever-increasing variety of small group and individual language courses and training services for students of all ages and learning levels in foreign languages and ESL.
Our tailored, artisanal approach to language education personalizes the learning experience and transforms the foreign into the familiar.
At Speak! we understand the powerful, life-changing benefits as well as the challenges and frustrations of foreign language learning. Tricky or overly-demanding work schedules, memory struggles, pronunciation mysteries, lack of speaking partners, new technologies to decipher…sound familiar? No matter how much you listen to CDs, flip through flashcards, engage with apps and nifty software, you might not have the sense that you can carry on a meaningful conversation, make a presentation with confidence at work or express your meaning with accuracy, elegance and oomph! Instead of becoming discouraged, we invite you to try the Speak! approach, which is predicated on the belief that spoken conversation, supported by grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation , is the most effective, entertaining and meaningful way to master another language. Whether in person or on live video chat, whether used alone or together with other approaches or applications, our programs put your interests and goals at the center of each and every conversation.
Speak! works with hundreds of individuals and small groups as well as the following larger organizations:
- United States Government (Dept. of Defense)
- SNL Financial
- The University of Virginia
- The Darden School of Business
- Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Albemarle County Schools
- The City of Charlottesville
Speak! Teachers: Artisan Educators
At Speak! we understand that language teaching is a true craft mastered only after years of experience with a variety of different students, in a variety of different settings, using a variety of different techniques, methods and technologies. Good teachers are primarily good listeners, able to sense an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, their enthusiasms and insecurities, their realistic goals and often wonderfully ambitious dreams. Before even selecting a single exercise, book, video clip or conversation topic, our teachers carefully assess their student’s level as well as their language learning style, needs and goals. Instead of trying to use a one-size-fits all, mass-market curriculum, like artisans our teachers skillfully create a custom course for each Speak! student, one that will best fit his or her needs – be it an emphasis on conversation and vocabulary in a specific professional field, a refresher of advanced grammar, some confidence or memory building games, even guided reading and writing practice. Custom and small group courses are treated with the same care. And like a good artisan, our teachers are always ready to re-shape their course as needed, responding to the student’s changing needs over time.
The Speak! story began back in 2004 with one university Italian professor and a group of five adult students – an engineer who designed parts for Ferraris, a poetry graduate student, a writer, a singer and a psychologist. Though she loved teaching university students, this teacher (Christina Ball) also harbored the dream of creating a language and culture center that would serve the entire community and welcome students of all ages and interests. Over time this Italian center – Ecco Italy – blossomed. In addition to language classes, we added Italian regional cooking and culture classes, courses on Italian opera and cinema and established a network of educational and travel partners in Italy. With the Italian model well rooted, in 2006 Christina launched a Spanish division – Spain on Main –and added language training services and custom courses to the center’s offerings. In order to better serve the language and culture needs of our increasingly global and professional community, the center was re-envisioned and “re-potted” in 2009 as Speak! Language Center. We have since grown into the area’s top language training center for both enrichment students and professionals in 12 foreign languages as well as ESL/English.