Berlitz: So how did you like the course? How did it ’taste’?

Fruzsina: Well, this mini-course was a bit like an appetizer, but my teacher was truly sweet! It’s clearly not easy to tailor a course like this to one individual, but we had good chemistry and hit it off right away—he was very kind! It was great that, at the very start, he laid down certain ground rules that helped me feel relaxed and confident. I think this is the most important thing for anyone setting out to learn a foreign language.

Berlitz: Where and how did you first start learning English?

Fruzsina: I had already learned English in secondary school, and I even got a language exam, but it just so happened that, mostly because of my work, I didn’t use it for the next 10 to 15 years—I was never abroad, not even on vacation, so I never had the chance to practice it. So I just lost it. It faded away. But when I took it up again, a lot of things started coming back—except my courage, which I never had in the first place.

Berlitz: Why is that?

Fruzsina: I think the bad early conditioning did the damage. This is how I responded to the bad teaching methods. The only way I could also pass the language exam was to take extra classes where I got the verb tenses and the grammar beaten into me, which was necessary to get the certificate. But these methods never gave me the confidence that I would have needed to just waltz into the oral matriculate exam. That I have never had.

Berlitz: Yes, this is quite a big difference: we always try to point out that being able to pass a language exam is not the same as learning to really speak the language. Did you experience this approach in the course, too?

Fruzsina: Absolutely. Here in your school, I can see that I have a long way to go, but I am getting exactly what I came here for: the confidence to open my mouth and start speaking. Mark, my teacher, told me, ’Listen, even native speakers of English mess things up occasionally. You shouldn’t feel bad when you make mistakes. You are already ahead of them, because at least you have undertaken to learn a second language.’ These kinds of sentences and the teacher’s personality do make a difference.And so does the fact that he is a native speaker, since he brings a certain mentality with him. In fact, I told him he didn’t think or saw things the same way as most Hungarians did.

Berlitz: So you have also experienced this kind of cultural difference in our school?

Fruzsina: Yes.In our first class I was still a bit nervous and uneasy, but today I have come to class with absolutely no fear or nervousness about making a mistake or struggling a bit finding the right words. After all, that’s what we are here for.

Berlitz: So we can declare that we have attained our goal: your self-confidence has grown. Was there anything more specific that you have managed to straighten out in these 10 units?

Fruzsina: Lots of little things. My teacher paid close attention to every detail, to my pronunciation, for example. He didn’t want me to chew every word; he asked me to be ‘lazier’.We clarified from the very beginning whether I wanted to prepare for a language exam or I just wanted to improve my conversational skills, and he made the right adjustment accordingly. He didn’t want to drill the grammar into me—he would rather ask me a lot of questions and let me speak.You can obviously do a lot of listening and watch a ton of videos on your own, but when you have to speak, now that’s the most valuable practice you can get. There were times when he spoke at length and I had to really concentrate not to lose track of what he was saying, which is also important in a conversation. And then the roles were reversed and I had to talk at some length because I wanted to explain something in more detail.

Berlitz: You didn’t just give one-or-two-word yes/no answers?

Fruzsina: The topics gave us a kind of frame, but we were pretty flexible with this, which suited me perfectly, because the point was to get us talking.When the topics brought in some words that were new to me—not just words that were not part of my active vocabulary, but absolutely new—, Mark was able to explain them to me in such a way that I could really grasp their meaning.These little successes were sometimes quite thrilling—they often made my day.