Giving students quite a linguistic workout

Former UC Irvine Professor Jacqueline Hahn might be retired, but don't tell her that means it is time to stop teaching.

"I just adore teaching so much that I become alive when I have a student here," said Hahn, in her distinct French accent from growing up in Marrakech, Morocco. "I want to help them."

Hahn retired from UCI about a decade ago, but she hasn't stopped teaching for a second. The Newport Beach resident started the Modern School of Languages in her Bonita Canyon home where she uses her own unique approach, what she calls "linguistic aerobics," to teach Spanish, French, Italian, German and English as a second language.

Her approach focuses on conversation and dialogue, whether she is teaching a 3-year-old, high school students trying to pass Advanced Placement exams or adults looking to learn another language before traveling abroad.

Unlike traditional teaching methods where students are taught vocabulary then grammar and are expected to put it together, she combines them conversationally, utilizing repetition and picture cards.

She also records every lesson, so her students can take her with them.

"It's the repetition that really makes you learn," she said. "It's a holistic approach. It makes you learn the language."

Hahn developed her approach at UCI, where she said they gave her carte blanche. She also wrote language books in French and Spanish that cater to her teaching style.

Being multilingual has opened many doors for Hahn. She won the UCI Distinguished Instructor award for outstanding teaching methods, traveled on cruise ships lecturing on art history in different languages and lectures at museums. She also credits language with opening up her creativity for painting and photography.

With everything Hahn has going on, she doesn't plan to stop teaching.

"Never, it will kill me," she said. "I have to teach — I have to teach."

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

Find out more

What: Learn Spanish, French, English as a second language, Italian and German at the Modern School of Language

Cost: $55 an hour with reduced rates for groups and families

Info: (949) 854-8088

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