At La Catalina Natural Language School, we realize and are sensitive to the fact that many people have had a great deal of frustration about their past experiences of learning Spanish, even after many years of classes and independent study. They come to us saying, “I know a lot of words and rules but when people speak to me I do not understand, even if they are using words I know.”

We have spent many years researching and striving to understand why so many people struggle at learning languages and how we can create a program and curriculum where students can use their natural facilities and experience to learn with ease.

At La Catalina, we have integrated the latest research and findings on language acquisition, along with a holistic mind/body/emotion approach to learning. Our teaching/learning methodology, which is based on some of the following fundamental realizations, is powerful and effective:

1. Learning your own language was not hard when you were a little kid. As a baby, you did not know any words, could not speak, read or write, and certainly did not know any grammar. Your brain pulled off the amazing feat of learning to discriminate word sounds out of what at first were meaningless patterns of sounds. It also figured out grammatical usage rules without having been told what they were. By the time you were four years old, you were fluent without much effort. You could communicate in the domain of your own world in real time and understand responses framed within the context of your limited vocabulary. This remarkable ability of the brain, our symbolic thinking ability, supported by familiarization through immersion in the language, were at work to make this happen.

Our approach:

Puts very little emphasis on grammar with speakers who are not at a fluent level; instead the emphasis is on familiarization and usage of Spanish.

The following is the conceptual language acquisition framework we use at La Catalina to guide our teaching and curriculum, through which one proceeds in overlapping and intermingling stages:

  • Passive Stage – Listening to sounds contextually to become familiar with new language
  • Active Stage – Attempting to use language to communicate: listening and speaking
  • Fluent Stage – Core vocabulary can be used in real time to communicate without having to translate from one’s native language
  • Vocabulary Expansion Stage – Engaging in various activities, the vocabulary relevant to those activities is naturally acquired. One also learns reading and writing
  • Language Deepening Stage – Acquiring the structure (grammar) and usage (literature, idiomatic expressions, composition, expression of abstract thought, humor, and poetry) of the language.

2. Belief is a powerful tool that can work for or against you. Here are some myths that people believe that are self-defeating and sabotage the learning process:

Myth #1: I am no good at learning languages.

The truth of the matter is that although some people are extraordinarily gifted with languages, if you can speak your native tongue, then you are perfectly capable and have all the mental facilities to learn a second language with ease, if you have the right motivation and right practice.

Myth #2: I am too old to learn another language. I missed the boat when I was kid!

In the normal adult, this symbolic capacity required to learn languages is fully functional, whether or not we are aware of its workings. Yet somehow this ability appears inaccessible to most people when we are learning a 2nd language. We use this symbolic capacity all the time; it is a major component in our being able to plan, navigate, talk in our native language, and drive a car, to mention a few major human activities. So, if we did not loose this capacity and it is fully operational, why then are we unable to use it to learn a new language and what is putting this capacity out of reach?

There are a number of factors, which could include emotional, mental, and physical blockages brought about by wrong beliefs and expectations, poor motivation and bad practices thus preventing this ability from operating. We simply become incapable of accessing our symbolic engine for learning languages.

Our approach:

Helps override these defeating beliefs and expectations by guiding every student to see and experience first-hand that they can learn Spanish through right practice. We realize that the mind is not the only one tool for learning, but we also need the support of the body and emotions. Let’s see how this is true. If you get nervous (emotions) and freeze up (body) then you are unable to communicate freely and openly. As part of the training our teachers receive, they learn how to create an environment that is comfortable for the mind, body and emotions so optimal learning can take place.

3. It is well known that if a person is in a foreign country with no peers to speak her native language and her survival depends on learning the foreign language, she will become reasonably fluent in the foreign language in a fairly short period of time (6 weeks to six months.) This immersion approach is extreme and can be fairly painful, but it does work!

Our approach:

Prepares you to face the immersion experience with more ease and confidence by providing you with the support of our school, teachers and structured activities.

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