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Profile of a lifelong Learner: Yuko. M.

Here at ICLS, we believe that lifelong learning and travel are powerful ways to build relationships and make authentic human connections. So we were so excited when Yuko sat down with us and shared her story of love, travel, and language. From Tokyo, Paris, and Rome, to the U.S. and back again, Yuko has invested herself in the adventure of learning French and Italian and it changed the course of her life. If you are ready to get started on your journey, check out our language classes for mature adults.

When Yuko was 59 years old, she sold her house, her possessions, and left everything she knew to move to Paris. Read on to discover how life events and a deep love for travels and languages led her to learn English, German, Spanish, French, and Italian, in addition to her native Japanese language.

Like so many of our other lifelong learners such as Aaron, who decided to go around the world on his motorcycle, Stephanie, who gave up a successful career as a lawyer to move to Tanzania, or Burke, who traveled to Nicaragua for a humanitarian cause, learning a new language has been a transformative and exhilarating experience for Yuko.

Leaving Japan

Yuko was born in northern Japan and went to high school in Tokyo. Once she graduated from high school, she moved to Folkstone, England, to learn English for a year and a half. She moved back to Tokyo and immediately put her newly acquired English proficiency at the service of her new job as an agent for fashion models.

However, Yuko wasn’t entirely satisfied with her knowledge of the English language. She moved back to England, settling in London this time. There she met a doctor from Argentina and later on moved to Bueno Aires for two and a half years. She immediately started learning her third language, Spanish.

Moving to Europe

Back in Tokyo, Yuko worked for a few years as a translator. Soon after, however, her wanderlust kicked in and she decided to spend six months visiting Europe. Her dream came true; moving from city to city by use of the Eurail Pass. After her adventures there came to a close, she moved to the US to join her soon-to-be husband whom she’d met back in Tokyo. They settled in northern Virginia until her husband, who worked for the State Department, was positioned in Frankfurt, Germany for 3 years.

Being an avid language learner, Yuko took some German classes. She divided her time between her growing family – she had three daughters by then, and her language courses. Yuko notes that living in an American community prevented her from immersing herself in the German language and culture. However, she developed a decent level of proficiency. After a short stay back in Northern Virginia, her husband took an assignment in Tokyo for two years where Yuko worked again as a translator.

Falling in love with Paris

A few years later, Yuko found herself as a single mother of three. She had to look for a stable position in the US. She started working as an administrator at a local high school. Over the following 18 years, she worked her way up to an office manager position while raising her daughters. With her children out of the nest, Yuko began yearning for more education. She enrolled in a local community college while working full-time and earned an associate’s degree. Yet, that didn’t quench her thirst for learning or her desire to travel again. This is why she enrolled in a five-week immersion class at an American university in Paris. It was a life-changing experience.

“ I fell in love with Paris, and thought, I could really do this full time. I want to live here”.

Back in the US, she made the bold decision to sell her house and everything she owned to finance her move to Paris where she attended a private school.

“I didn’t have any savings so selling my house was the only way to do this. With my daughters out of college, I thought it was time to do something for myself. I worked until the day before I left and spent the following two years in Paris where I finished my four-year degree.”

Yuko ended up taking a French class that was a bit above her proficiency level. It was a challenging experience since she had very little practice in speaking French when she arrived in Paris.

 “I wish I had studied more French before going to Paris. I feel like had I had a little more French before leaving, I probably would have picked up more of the language while living there, progressed faster. I wish I had known better.”

While Yuko excelled at the written assignments, it took her some time to develop her conversation skills.

“It didn’t help that I lived alone as opposed to having a French roommate or living with a family.”

But Yuko loved French so much that she decided to minor in it.

“I’ve always loved French, the sound of French. But always hesitated to take it because it kind of intimidated me. I didn’t feel that way about Spanish. But I thought, I’m going to try, and you know, I’m still trying.”

From Paris to Rome

Once Yuko completed her degree, she wasn’t quite ready to leave Europe.language classes for mature adults

“I just love Europe. I felt so at home in Paris. But my school was expensive and didn’t offer an art history major, so I applied to a program in Rome and got accepted.”

She spent the next two years in Rome studying Art History. While many of her classes in Paris took place in Le Louvres, her classes in Rome were frequently held in the Vatican Museum and other local museums. Then COVID hit and Yuko decided to stay in Italy.

“That alone was amazing at times. I got to walk in empty Rome, I would go to Saint Peter’s Square and it would be empty!”

Continuing her lifelong language learning journey

Yuko finally came back to the US, full of memories and eager to find a way to go back to Europe. She shared that one thing she regretted was never taking formal Italian classes while she was there. Because she enrolled in many graduate-level art history classes, it left her with little time or energy to learn Italian. That said, She did pick up some of the language just by living there but it was not enough.

This is what prompted her to look for some Italian classes after she came back from Europe.

“I still wanted to learn Italian, I love learning languages, and I love to be able to communicate in the local language when I travel. It gives me so much satisfaction.”

Yuko came across the Lifelong program and decided to give it a try. She enrolled in both Italian 1 and French 2, as she didn’t want to take anything too stressful.

“Having gone through graduate school at my age, these classes were very fun. And it was nice to learn a language with people my age. We have a lot of things in common. I went to school with 20-year-olds, it’s a different experience. ”

The language classes for mature adults that she took followed a relaxed pace focused on conversation skills and culture and even include a cooking challenge.

“I made chou pastry and gnocchi. I don’t like cooking that much, but when I accomplished the projects, I felt good, and thought I can do this again. It’s not that hard!”

Yuko’s plan going forward is to continue with French to prepare for her plan to move to France permanently in the future.  She also just enrolled in an Italian 2 in the lifelong program.

When asked if it is ever too late to learn a language, Yuko shares that although you probably won’t sound like a native person, you can still develop enough language skills to communicate with people around you and have a lot of fun.

Lifelong Learning at ICLS: Language classes for mature adults 

Inspired to start your language-learning journey? Whether you’re looking to dip your toes into a new culture, prepare for an upcoming trip, or boost your professional skills, ICLS has a language class to help you become a lifelong learner! Our highly experienced, top-tier instructors will make sure you achieve your goals and have fun while doing so. 

Our Lifelong Language Program offers 6-week online language classes for mature adults centered on travel and culture themes in French, Spanish, and Italian. 

And if you’re looking for a more intensive experience, try our 10-week Online Group Language Courses. Choose between courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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