If you have the privilege of learning a new language for fun, be prepared: Things can get emotional. The process is exciting, frustrating, often joyful, sometimes embarrassing, and above all, extremely rewarding.
Katia Paroczi knows these feelings all too well. As the polyglot behind Bellingham Language School, she holds a master’s degree in of in Italian language and Literature and has been teaching languages in Whatcom County for 15 years. Paroczi is Hungarian, and while she notes that it is more common to speak multiple languages in Europe, her love for languages goes above and beyond.
“For me, it’s a passion,” she says. “[Speaking another language] opens a new horizon.”
Paroczi speaks four languages fluently– English, French, Hungarian, and Italian– and teaches the latter three at Bellingham Language School. She also offers seasonal group courses, including an Italian book club, for intermediate and advanced learners. In addition, individuals and small groups of any level can schedule lessons privately. Lessons are held virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paroczi has previously taught at community colleges and universities, but she says her current work is very different. Unlike school courses, students at the Bellingham Language School don’t “graduate”– partially because learning a second language is a never-ending process. As such, she has the opportunity to teach new materials and work beyond a traditional class structure.
“In my case– especially with advanced groups such as the book clubs– I’ve been teaching these students for more than ten years,” Paroczi says.
Paroczi’s students are an eclectic group; some have previously lived abroad whereas others are simply passionate about foreign languages. In addition, some students organize trips abroad either as a hobby or as an official business. This includes Erica Mallin, owner of Roads Less Traveled Italy (roadslesstraveleditaly.com).
“I started studying Italian a number of years ago and have found that knowing the language is super useful to me in planning the best trips for my clients,” Mallin says. “Katia’s classes have helped me continue to grow as a language learner, and they’re also just plain fun, as she manages to create a relaxed atmosphere while still challenging her students.”
Another reason why students such as Mallin stick with Paroczi’s classes is because learning a second (or third, or fourth) language is a never-ending process. When vacationing in a foreign country, Paroczi notes that it’s useful and polite to learn simple words and phrases. However, to engage on a deeper level, it’s not possible to only learn “conversational” Italian or French. Understanding the building blocks of a language is a must.
In addition to being committed, language learners need to be okay with never reaching “perfection.” Rather than feeling defeated or embarrassed for making a mistake, Paroczi notes that it’s important to celebrate the process– because speaking a foreign language is ultimately very fulfilling.
“You enter a different universe, and you also become a different person,” Paroczi says. “It’s like going and discovering a new continent– or another planet, even.”
Bellingham, 360.441.2653, bellinghamlanguageschool.weebly.com