A Conversation with Speak Their Language Founder Erica Cosentino
Erica Cosentino is the founder of Speak Their Language Retreats. A lifelong writer and lover of words, Erica is now helping others connect with their own passion of learning languages. I first met Erica in May 2018 during a writing retreat, and was thrilled to hear about the launch of Speak Their Language Retreats.
In this interview, I got to know more about Erica–her travels, her daily work, and what she’s up to at Speak Their Language Retreats.
When did you realize you were a language enthusiast? Tell us about the first time you remember falling in love with learning a new language.
I think this passion for languages comes from my lifelong love of writing – after all, it’s just another way to communicate with people! In 2016, I spent three months working as an English teacher in Venezuela, where I began learning Spanish from scratch. I was surprised and motivated to see how easy it was for me to pick the language up, and I wanted to continue my language education after I returned to Canada.
Unfortunately, I returned home, fell into old beliefs (“learning a language is just too hard”) and managed to talk myself out of signing up for Spanish classes. As the months passed, I found myself regretting this more and more.
In 2018, I switched gears entirely and decided to commit myself to learning Italian. I told myself I’d stick with it for as long as it takes to feel comfortable holding a conversation in the language. Much like with Spanish, I picked up Italian so much faster than I expected, and I think it was enough to finally get me over that mental hurdle and disprove my belief that language learning takes forever. Instead, I now have to hold myself back from trying to learn all the languages!
You are a travel blogger and you’re launching new retreats. How do you manage the balance between work and travel? What does your day-to-day work look like?
I’m lucky because the work I do can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Even my day job (yes, technically I have 3 jobs!) is remote. I’ll spend most of the day doing work for my day job, which is marketing for a photography company, and spend a couple hours in the evening writing or working on planning out a retreat. My “evening job” is so fun for me, it doesn’t even feel like work.
While this does mean I spend around 10 hours a day in front of my laptop, it also allows me to spend weeks travelling in a new country or city if I save my exploring for evenings and weekends.
How did you get the idea to start Speak Their Language Retreats? Tell us about this decision.
I was largely inspired by the writing retreat I took to Tel Aviv with Pink Pangea in 2018. I was blown away by the bonds our group formed in just a few short days. Near the beginning of this year, I found myself wishing I had a similar community of language learners – that was when it occurred to me that I could create my own! I’ve been running with the idea ever since.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your extensive language learning experience?
Learning a language, even if you can only communicate with limited proficiency, opens your world up by a huge degree. Speaking the local language when travelling abroad allows an even deeper experience because you now have the ability to connect with even more people.
I recommend that anyone who considers themselves a traveller try to pick up a second language if they haven’t already – not necessarily to fluency, but enough to speak very basically.
It’s almost like speaking the native language can take you to a different, more authentic version of your destination.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about joining a Speak Their Language Retreat, but is nervous to join for the first time?
Trust me, I know that speaking a foreign language in front of other people can be intimidating. Our retreats are a no-judgement zone, and all the other participants will be in the same boat as you. We keep the groups small so it’s easier to get to know everyone and feel comfortable speaking, making mistakes, and learning from each other.
With 17 hours of instruction from a qualified language instructor and the opportunity for complete immersion, by the end of the retreat, you’ll find yourself feeling confident and wanting to do it again!
We’ve been following along your travel adventures and we are inspired! Where are you based these days? What are your travel plans for the rest of 2019?
I’m currently based in Glasgow – I moved here from Toronto in April to finally fulfill my dream of living abroad for a year. Through the rest of 2019, I plan to take advantage of the cheap flights to check as much of Europe off my bucket list as I can! I’ve already spent three weeks in Spain and made my third visit to Italy.
Anything else–travel tips, inspiring quotation, etc–you’d like to share with the Pink Pangea community?
The saying that keeps me motivated to take chances with travel is “there will never be a right time to do something”. You’ll always find a reason not to take the trip, to move abroad, or to travel for an extended period of time, but you have to make the choice sooner or later to just do it. The timing might not be perfect, but odds are you’ll be glad you did!
A Conversation with Speak Their Language Founder Erica Cosentino photo credits: Erica Cosentino