We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Fiorentino and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michael, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
Born and raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I’m blessed with the most loving, hardworking parents anyone could ask for. Even better, my mom is American and my dad is Italian – so I was further blessed with the best of both worlds. Growing up, my mom taught me to make my dreams come true and that I could be anyone I wanted to be. My dad taught me that hard work, and lots of it, is how to make such metamorphoses a reality. With their consistent, if not at times intense encouragement, I did well in school. I looked to my family’s immigrant history and while meticulously preparing back up plans, I took a leap and applied to graduate school at UCLA. The idea of getting accepted to such a renowned university and moving across country seemed almost obscene. But I thought — my dad’s dream of coming to America at age 16 must have seemed much crazier. And look at what success he had achieved. Having earned my UCLA Masters degree in Linguistic Anthropology and now lived in LA for 17 years, I’m so glad I took that (calculated) risk. I’ve since been fortunate enough to work for global companies like Berlitz Languages, Four Seasons Hotels, Mandarin Oriental and I even ran a Surgical Center and Clinic Group in Beverly Hills for 10 years. Following my parents’ lifelong advice of “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”, I’m so thankful to say that after years of grinding away and “keeping my eye on the horse” (“occhio a cavallo” in Italian), I’ve been able to take many more calculated risks, time and again, making my dreams a reality. In 2019, I left healthcare to pursue my lifelong passion – teaching. I founded Eat Speak Travel and build customized learning experiences for students of all ages, specializing in Italian, Spanish, English and Cooking lessons. With the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve laid solid groundwork, I feel so blessed to be blazing my own trail in a field that has been my true love since I was a kid. That everyday, I get to wake up and help others explore the world, expand their minds, grow their talents and enjoy discovering new languages, cultures and peoples – well, it’s the only thing that leaves me speechless. I’m so thankful for all the love and support my parents have always shown me and for their efforts to open my eyes to the wide wide world around me. As for any future entrepreneurs out there thinking about starting their own business, any students dreaming of college, or anyone who could just use a little encouragement to follow their own dream, as my dad always says, “Don’t wait for tomorrow, if you can do it today!” 

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I was a little kid and my cousins would come over, I’d make them play school with me and I, of course, was always the teacher. When I was 10 I begged for a filing cabinet for Christmas — I still have it. In high school, instead of doodling, I learned the Arabic, Hebrew and Russian alphabets and would cover my notebooks with transliterations. By the age of 20, I could speak 5 languages and by 30, I was fluent in 3 and conversational in about a dozen. I’ve taught and tutored all my life, but only in 2019 did I do a career 180 and turn to teaching privately full time, founding my own company, www.EatSpeakTravel.com To teach a language is to slowly open a student’s senses, first with new sounds, then new symbols, new words, new systems and strategies, new structures and new modes of thinking and making sense of the world, just as human as our own, yet different, sometimes just a little, and sometimes completely so. To introduce the beautiful secrets of a new language to a student is one of the most magical experiences there is. To succeed in teaching someone to roll their “r”, or to finally conquer the cadence of Italian, to learn for the first time of the symbolism behind each Hebrew Letter or the meaning of American song lyrics, memorized over the years, but never understood — these are my joys and these are the treasured moments my art gifts me. Having studied in great depth over two dozen languages, I have a more profound understanding of the process of language learning and of technique than do most instructors. Given the wide array of languages I’ve studied (Italian, Spanish, English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Latin, Hebrew, Yiddish, Romani, Farsi, etc), I’ve learned through many modes – with a great teacher, with a not so great teacher, small group, large group, online, in person, on my own from books, on my own from apps, on my own from film and so on. When I sit with a student and teach one-on-one, I’m uniquely tuned in to their ability and their interest. Unlike classroom learning, private teaching affords the luxury of customizing literally every detail of the learning to the student, to their preferences, their abilities, the pace most appropriate for that moment in their learning. There is no one size fits all with my lessons. I build the language around the student and this, I have noted, makes all the difference.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Mom and Dad

Website: www.EatSpeakTravel.com
Instagram: MFioren
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-fiorentino-ma-celta-33257659
Facebook: Eat Speak Travel

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