Fitness and Foreign Language Fluency

By OptiLingo Team • 8 minute read

language learning and fitness

An Exposé on Anja Spilker, CEO of ZALOA Languages

Walking into a language lesson led by ZALOA Language’s Anja Spilker may leave you a bit shocked at first. Seeing everyone standing, stretching, moving around while listening using German phrases isn’t the norm when it comes to language learning. But with the results she sees, maybe it should be.

The Power of Learning Languages Abroad

Born and raised in Germany, Spilker left her home for the first time in 2007 to explore France, Switzerland and a few other countries. In 2009, she would leave again for Mexico to finish her bachelor’s in business. Traveling and learning languages had always been two interests for her, and they would serve as the motivation behind the creation of her own business later on in life.

Anja Spilker came to quickly understand the opportunities that learning new languages provides. Spilker first learned French, and later, Spanish. For Spilker, Mexico provided a unique opportunity. It allowed her to travel to and live in a foreign country outside of Europe, helping others learn her language while exploring foreign languages around her. Little did she know how quickly she would fall in love with Mexico. 

ZALOA Languages

language learning business

Spilker decided that she wanted to share her two gifts with the world (her love of languages and fitness). And in 2015, she launched the language learning company ZALOA Languages. The Cholula, Mexico based-company works with language-learners from all over the world in small online settings. Their goal is to help students reach fluency by providing the direct coaching needed to speak a new language confidently. 

ZALOA makes this happen by offering private 1:1 settings or in small groups of up to 5 students. Students get to work with native speakers in 90-minute courses that emphasize speaking the language. Teachers walk students through lessons, giving them the feedback they need in any of the following languages:

  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • English
  • French
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Polish
  • Náhuatl

ZALOA Languages employs native speakers as their teachers. These 30 instructors currently teach more than 200 students both online and offline in Cholula, Mexico. Their online program includes:

  • Video courses on grammar with step-by-step explanations
  • Speaking practice sessions with native teachers
  • Additional exercises

But you can’t learn a language effectively without learning about the culture. That’s why ZALOA goes beyond focusing on just grammar and syntax. Instead, their teachers open the door to a new culture for their students, covering unique topics that help students get a grasp of the people as well as the language. This allows them to explore a bit more of the world with each lesson.

Since ZOLOA began, they’ve helped over 4000 people reach fluency in their target language. 

Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges

Her biggest challenge doesn’t come from the teaching side of things, but rather, the human resource/business side. She points out that it’s difficult to hire and manage people from different cultures located all over the world. Still, she understands the responsibility of any business owner and pushes through those challenges to make ZALOA Languages a popular choice for eager language learners.

And it’s no easy job. Despite loving her work, Spilker spends most of her days working. 16-hour days are common as she manages her team of 30 while also preparing lessons, teaching, and giving back to the community.

Fitness and Language-Learning

But ZALOA Languages goes beyond simple small class instruction by incorporating fitness with learning language. The idea came to Spilker during a workout. She was counting crunches in Náhuatl (a language of the indigenous Mexican people). After her workout, she found that she remembered her lesson better and felt good about it. 

As she dug deeper into the connection between fitness and language learning, she discovered several similarities. Both require regular work to reach your goals. The results tend to be slow, occurring over time. And there are days when you really want to make both happen, but it’s much easier to distract yourself, stay in bed, and put it off until later. 

To achieve fluency in a language and results in the gym, you need a routine in your daily life. But both require setting time aside. By fusing both practices together, she found that you could save time and get a good workout. The experience left her (and later on, her students), feeling doubly successful. She spent time learning a language and felt fit and more alive after each lesson.

There are several scientific studies that back her findings. They point out the benefits of combining both fitness and language-learning. Better retention and an overall positive feeling after lessons are common. And kinesthetic learning has been shown to help students pair movements to words and phrases. Over time, this helps them to better remember the lessons. In other words, it’s kind of like fully body mnemonics. 

You can learn more by watching her video:

Plus, her teaching style is just fun. People sit down for most of the day anyways. Getting up and moving around makes things interesting. If you’re tired or feeling drained, moving around can help increase your circulation, waking you up, and helping you better focus on your less. So on those days when you’re really not in the mindset to learn a language, throwing in a quick fitness session with your language lesson can help you push through it.

Her approach is less about sweating and more about improving mental health and well-being. It also goes beyond language learning apps, grammar workbooks, and boring drills. Instead, she uses fitness to make each lesson fun and exciting, putting a new spin on the language-learning process. 

You can see examples of this on her channel: Burn & Learn Languages

Motivational Coaching for All Language Learners

Everyone can learn a language, but not everyone can stay motivated the entire time. Even Polyglots need to push through lulls. Spilker understands that no matter where you are in your language-learning journey, everyone has off days. So, her goal is to help others keep those days to a minimum by providing language coaching and motivational strategies for her clients.  

Language learning has its foundational concepts: grammar, vocab, phrases, listening, etc. And in the early stages, it’s easier to stay motivated. But at some point, the results slow down and efforts being to return minimal results. Spilker helps coach people through these intermediate plateaus, getting back on track with their language learning goals. 

She starts off by going back to the source of the problem. Spilker talks with you to figure out how far you went in your journey towards fluency and why you stopped. And she’ll figure out what motivates you. Then she puts together an action plan for you to again find your motivation so that you can keep moving forward. As a coach, Spilker combines your language-learning goals with your interests to help you get the best results. 

How to Make a Difference Speaking Languages

changing the world through language learning

Anja Spilker believes that polyglots have a responsibility to make a difference in the world through language. There’s a common saying among polyglots, that everyone can learn a language. Spilker takes a stance against this arguing that some people have circumstances in life that prevent them from learning languages (socio-economic difficulties, mainly).

Unlike many others who try to shine a light on impoverished people and their struggles, Spilker doesn’t ask people to donate money. Instead, she asks that polyglots and language learners at all stages spread awareness through their social networks. At the very minimum, getting the word out there about impoverished people can help inspire others to act. 

But Spilker also goes one step further and donates her time and abilities. ZALOA Languages sends tutors out to help spread language learning. Her teachers work with locals, sharing tips, insight, and lessons that help them reach fluency in their target language. 

She also encourages people to learn about and promote minority languages. As someone who’s witnessed others being disparaged because of the languages they speak, she hopes to spread respect for minority languages. Spilker wants to change the perception that only poor people speak an indigenous language. Instead, she hopes more and more people will appreciate them for their beauty and uniqueness. 

Spilker covers this (a concept called Polyglotship) in this Youtube Video:

Connect with Anja Spilker 

Spilker loves sharing her passion for languages with people from all over the world. Her mission with ZALOA Languages is to show everybody how easy & fun it can be to learn a language! Her team works with language-learners to overcome their fears of speaking and to make language learning part of our everyday life.

For more information on Anja Spilker, ZALOA Languages, and the work she does check out her contacts below: 

Website: https://zaloalanguages.com/

Business Contact: info@zaloalanguages.com 

Instagram: @anja_from_alemania

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anja.spilker

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anja-from-alemania/

YouTube: Burn & Learn Languages 

OptiLingo Team

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