Article published in Dropline.biz on April 6, 2006

Foreign Languages

By Regina Washington (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)

The dream of most Americans is to learn a foreign language,” says Madame Cecilia C. Rasmussen, founder and chairwoman of Super-Learners International Language Schools. Madame Rasmussen is a dynamic learning specialist who has studied under Dr. Georgi Lozanov and has researched the methods of the top leading experts in learning techniques both in the United States and abroad.

Madame Rasmussen has over 25 years of experience in foreign language instruction. She has a teaching credential and has taught high school and college students. After many years of following antiquated teaching techniques required by the educational systems, Madame Rasmussen decided to start her own school, Super-Learners. “The high schools and colleges have you use their text books and have you teach only left-brain (just information),” says, Madame Rasmussen. “I knew that students would come into the new school year with this hope that they are going to walk out speaking Spanish, or French, or Italian, and it didn’t always happen because you had certain information that you had to teach them and give them a test on it. It is all just information.”

Madame Rasmussen is an expert in learning different languages; she speaks four and one-half. She proudly said, “I enjoy helping people learn the languages of their dreams.Almost ever person that I have ever met whether they are foreigners or Americans, mostly Americans, want to learn Italian, French, or Spanish.”

Prior to establishing Super-Learners, Madame Rasmussen conducted extensive research over the last 15 to 20 years into her methodology which is based on “Left Brain vs. Right Brain.” She explained, “We know so much more about the brain now. It is a question of methodology. The method that they had in the past was so antiquated. Some teachers are still using this method. This is the saddest part of it all. With all the new information coming out about left brain, right brain and understanding it in order to learn a language, we know now that you have to learn it on the right side of the brain.” (Super-Learners’ Holistic Methodology).

The left side of your brain is the logical, analytical, and verbal side of your brain. Madame Rasmussen calls this the “informational side” because all you do is learn information, verbs and conjugations. That is all that you will ever put into the left side of the brain. She calls this the left hemisphere. The right side of the brain (or right hemisphere) is the intuitive, creative, and emotional side. “That is the magical side,” says Madame Rasmussen. She calls that the conversational side because that is the side that people use to learn to speak on. She explains, “A child may not know how to read or write a language, but after four or five months of being in a country where adults and other children are speaking the language to the child, then the child will be speaking the language, and within one-year the child will be totally bilingual.” “So, why can’t an adult do it?” “Probably ninety percent of people are left brain dominant or right brain dominant.” (Super-Learners’ Hemisphere Quiz).

 “We are in a different time now, where we are gathering all kind of new information. The most important thing about knowing this is not just for languages, but for parents to know how to help their children become more balanced. If the child is really good at math, then they should have them take an art class,” says Madame Rasmussen. “It also affects relationships because left-brain people are definitely attracted to right brain people. If the two are extreme left or extreme right brain then the relationship will most likely not work out.” People do not have to stay left or right brain. They can work on changing what they are.  Madame Rasmussen says, “If parents understood this about their children they can become more balanced and become better people.”

When a prospective student seeks out Super-Learners, they do not necessarily know what language they would like to learn. Madame Rasmussen will ask them, What language do you dream of speaking? If you had your fantasy come true, which one do you think you would love to speak? Most people respond with “Italian” or “French,” but they say, Spanish is more practical. Madame Rasmussen tells these individuals that they should not go with the practical aspects when learning another language; they should go with their heart, their imagination, and their emotions, then they will be more excited about it, more motivated, and that is when they will learn better.

Most people attend Super Learners to learn to be fluent in a foreign language for the rest of their life. The two most popular languages that people want to learn are French and Spanish, but Spanish has taken a slight lead; possibly because most of the students live in Southern California. Sixty percent of these students want to learn another language, so that they can make a dream come true, the other forty percent are doing it for practical reasons. Super Learners teaches individuals to be fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, English, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Mandarin.

Super Learners’ instructors work very hard to help their students learn one or more foreign languages, but first they need to undo the possible damage that has been done to them in their high school and/or college language classes. Most Americans have taken 2 to 4 years of a foreign language while attending high school and additional years while at a university. “For most Americans, their studying another language has not been a good experience because they felt inadequate and they were made to feel dumb by their teachers because they could not learn all the grammar,” says Madame Rasmussen. “This is not an exception, but the case.” She elaborates, “The traditional way that people are being taught a foreign language in schools is wrong. Most students are very excited at the beginning, but most academics that teach foreign languages still teach with the methods used in the Middle Ages. They teach just for information. That is what language learning was all about since the Middle Ages; it was for information, it wasn’t to speak another language.”

Madame Rasmussen’s curriculum starts with a Level I program which is 60 hours. Every twenty hours another tense is added. During the first twenty hours students are taught the “present tense,” the next twenty hours they learn the “future tense,” and they are taught the “past tense” during the third twenty hours. (Super-Learners’ Course Descriptions).

During the classes students are not subjected to only speaking the language that they are learning. English is spoken during the first twenty hours for explanation purposes, if the student is learning a foreign language. The Super-Learners’ script that they use to learn has a story of a family going to France, or Mexico, or Italy, it has a translation into English, so the student always knows what they are saying. “That is really important for the brain because if the brain knows a hundred percent of what you are learning and listening to, it inputs anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of the information; if it doesn’t have a clue what you are saying or maybe it understands twenty percent then it will input only about 5 or 10 percent,” said Madame Rasmussen. “The amount that you input into your brain because you know what the person is saying is three times as much. The old idea that you only speak in class the language that you are learning is antiquated. It is very old; passé.”

Students attend two hour classes once a week. Madame Rasmussen explained, “If you just attend an hour class, you will most likely not learn much. The brain reaches a momentum after an hour. If you stop at one hour, then it is like dropping the ball. For long term memory, which is what the Super-Learners’ students are working on, it is much more affective if the class is two hours long because when you reach the momentum at one hour then you keep that momentum going for the next hour.”

Once enrolled in the program, students are given a package with CDs. They are supposed to listen to the CDs outside of class. This is not a strict listening assignment; the student just needs to play the CDs in the background. Madame Rasmussen calls this method, “peripheral learning.”  She says, “The student can play the CD in the background while they are talking or daydreaming, usually people listen to them while they are driving in the car. That is the way children learn, with repetition.” (Super-Learners’ Learning Tools).

This method is important because people cannot learn to think or speak in a language if they do not listen to it every single day,” says Madame Rasmussen. “Many people try to learn a language and never hear it. That is the very reason why we supply the students with CDs, so they can listen for 30 minutes outside of class, this way they were listening to it now in the right side of their brain, the creative side, and when they come to class that information is activated. Then the language learned is going to be anchored as conversation.”

Madame Rasmussen has worked with many celebrities including Johnny Depp, Christina Aguilera, Toby McGuire, Penelope Cruz, and many others.

John Depp already spoke French,but he wanted to be able to read it as well. Madame Rasmussen said,“He spoke the language well enough to communicate, actually with an incredible pronunciation because he has that ear for it. French is not a phonetic language, like Spanish. English is also not a phonetic language; you have to know how to pronounce vowels and consonants in order to be able to pronounce the language.”

Other people like Toby McGuire had a longtime yearning, from when he was very young to speak French,” says, Madame Rasmussen. “It just depends on the person.”

I worked with Christina Aguilera before she was famous,” says Madame Rasmussen. One of her students, Ron Fair, who was VP of A&R at RCA (now President of A&M Records), had discovered Christina Aguilera. He approached Madame Rasmussen and asked if she would work with Christina because he was so sure that she was going to be a sensation overnight. Christina wanted to keep her name Aguilera, and she wanted to do some songs in Spanish.

Madame Rasmussen worked with Christina on pronunciation and conversation; then when she began to get busy with her career, she worked with her with the pronunciation of Spanish for her songs. After her album was released, Madame Rasmussen traveled with Christina back east and traveled with her to all of her venues. She was preparing for a South American tour with her album. “Her album in Spanish is exquisite,” said Madame Rasmussen. “Christina’s pronunciation of the Spanish language is so beautiful.”  She still works with Christina when she is preparing to record a song in Spanish. Christina recently recorded one to sing with Andrea Bocelli.

Penelope Cruz has also been a private student of Madame Rasmussen. She started to work with Penelope on English, but then they changed over to French because she was preparing for a French movie.

Madame Rasmussen has recently worked with Jack Black on Spanish. He was doing a movie called Nacho Libre which was written by one of her students, Mike White (The School of Rock, The Good Girl, and Orange County).

Super-Learners has been open for business at the Beverly Hills location for 15 years and at the Newport Beach location for seven. (Super-Learners’ Locations). Madame Rasmussen enjoys teaching foreign languages very much, but one thing that is important and close to her heart is that for people to continue their education, whether in learning a different language or something else that is equally challenging. Madame Rasmussen said, “Research has shown that if people keep using their brains, they will stimulate their brain cells, and this could very well keep people from suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

For more information on Super-Learners International Language Schools visit their official website at: www.superlearners.com.

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