Freestyle Language Center aims to create multilingual Austin

Freestyle founder and French instructor Elizabeth Mack believes immersion is essential when learning a new language.

Freestyle founder and French instructor Elizabeth Mack believes immersion is essential when learning a new language.

Image description
Freestyle Language Center
Image description
Freestyle Language Center
Image description
5 components of language acquisition
Image description
By the numbers
Elizabeth Mack founded Freestyle Language Center in 2012 but has been conceptualizing the immersion language school since she was a student at The University of Texas at Austin in the 1980s.

During her junior year she studied in Aix-en-Provence, France, where she lived with a host family.

“Because it was learning French while living with them, and [immersing myself], and connecting to them in their language—that’s why I feel like I got so close,” Mack said. “It was the experience of my lifetime.”

At Freestyle, Mack has tried to replicate that experience for her adult students.

Students attend two 75-minute classes a week at their assessed level. Courses are offered in French, Spanish and Italian with some sessions in Portuguese. On Saturdays students participate in a 90-minute cafe, drinking coffee and engaging in casual conversation in the language they are learning.

The instructors are, “intentionally,” a mix of native speakers and American educators, Mack said. They combine cultural insight with professional training.

Unlike at traditional language schools, Freestyle students are not graded or tested. Instead, they are asked to speak from day one about things that matter to them—their work or their families, for example—and not to repeat random phrases from memory.

It is all part of a curriculum that is based on “authentic materials.” Instead of textbooks, Freestyle uses films, telenovelas and social activities—wine tastings at Austin Wine Merchant, film screenings and museum visits—in the target language.

Austinites are eager learners, Mack said.

“Even without the market research, I knew that Austin is a highly educated town,” she said, so her passion for language turned into a viable business.

The first Freestyle session had four students, the next 20 and the third 60. Last summer the business’ annual growth rate was 1,000 percent, she said.

She attributes this success to a curriculum that integrates the elements of language acquisition in a way that is fun for students.

“Everybody can learn a new language,” she said. “Because we’re human, and this is what our brains are meant to do.”

801 Rio Grande St., Austin
888-982-4652
www.freestylelanguagecenter.com
Hours: Mon., Wed. 5:30-8:45 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


MOST RECENT

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has named a new executive director. (Courtesy Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority)
James Bass named executive director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

Bass, the former executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, replaces Mike Heiligenstein, who stepped aside Jan. 24.

Photo of vaccine vials
Austin, Travis County leaders push for improved Austin Public Health vaccine registration portal

Austin Public Health is working to clean up glitches in its portal.

A nearly five-year project to improve I-35 in the area of William Cannon Drive and Stassney Lane is set to finish in mid-2021. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
I-35 news to follow in '21: Work finishing in South Austin, input to be gathered for managed lane projects

While one project in South Austin approaches its final months, the Texas Department of Transportation is gathering input for projects to add nontolled lanes to I-35 over the next several years.

The Texas Legislature is responsible for drawing lines for new state and federal districts. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Redistricting process affecting every level of government gets underway in 2021

The state's process is largely a political one, while the city's process is left to an independent commission.

Photo of the Travis County sign
Travis County votes to accept application for Silicon Silver development incentives agreement

The company behind the project will be named once it submits an application and pays a $150,000 fee—the same as Tesla paid to apply for its hefty 2020 agreement.

Previous headliners included Cody Johnson, Turnpike Troubadours, Aaron Watson and Mark Chestnutt, among others. (Courtesy KOKEFest)
KOKEFest releases dates in Hutto; Marisol's Mexican Grill taking orders in Georgetown and more area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Austin ISD reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases the week of Jan. 4, but that number has decreased for two consecutive weeks, according to the district. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD sees 70% drop in on-campus students over past 2 weeks after district asks families to stay home

The district saw a 11,839-student decline in on-campus learning as AISD families opted for online learning from Jan. 12-22.

City officials are facing growing pressure to address the growing visibility of homelessness in Austin. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sanctioned homeless camp proposal gains attention from Austin leaders as pressure mounts

Mayor Steve Adler said the urgent need for shelter space and housing could overrule initial objections to sanctioned homeless encampments.

See how COVID-19 continues to impact Travis County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Despite drop in hospital admissions, Travis County adds 4,039 new COVID-19 cases over past 7 days

Overall, Travis County has reported 65,507 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Construction at Q2 Stadium is on schedule to be completed by late March or early April. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin FC will play at newly named Q2 Stadium starting this summer

Austin FC announced the naming partnership with Austin-based tech company Q2 Holdings Inc. at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 25.

The Contemporary Austin will host a virtual artist talk Feb. 3 with photographers Torbjørn Rødland and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. (COURTESY TORBJØRN RØDLAND/CONTEMPORARY ATX)
Austin Film Society presents drive-in Sundance Film Festival screenings, The Contemporary Austin hosts a virtual artist talk and more events in Austin

Austin Film Society is a satellite screen partner for the Sundance Film Festival, which normally takes place at a ski resort in Utah, but is screening films digitally and through partners around the country this year.