Hablas español? Parlez-vous français?
As twin brothers originally from Chile, Arturo and Lucas Fonseca, once dreamed of teaching English overseas after college. But while studying entrepreneurial management at Grace College
, they realized a strong need for English and Spanish tutoring services in the Northeast Indiana community.
As a result, the twins founded Language Matters
to teach English, French, and Spanish to schools, individuals, and organizations in the region and beyond. They also offer translation and interpretation services.
While Language Matters partners with schools, like Grace, to advance campus language departments, the company also has programs to help minority groups and individuals find a sense of belonging in cultures different from their own.
“Language Matters exists to eliminate communication barriers and cultural barriers between people from different cultures,” Lucas says.
Language Matters teaches English, French, and Spanish to schools, individuals, and organizations.
Over the years, he and Arturo have attended French, German, and English schools, which has prepared them for this work.
“I was exposed to a lot of different languages and cultures that were represented by those institutions,” Lucas says.
Through these experiences, he and Arturo have learned that, while many schools abroad teach foreign languages, they do not necessarily expose their students to different countries’ cultures. Language Matters strives to educate its clients more holistically on both fronts.
“We want to teach you the language, but we also want to have the culture aspect incorporated because we know they’re intertwined,” Lucas says.
To achieve this goal, the company works with another new company Arturo started, Aiming Toward College
, to offer exchange programs for foreign students interested in studying abroad in the U.S. While Language Matters provides language services, Aiming Toward College seeks to immerse students in American culture.
Language Matters partners with Aiming Toward College to offer exchange programs for foreign students interested in studying abroad in the U.S.
Language Matters began when the brothers, who graduated from Grace in 2019, were in their second year of college, and Lucas was able to apply what he was learning in his business classes to launching the company. Along the way, Grace Professors, Dr. Alan Grossnickle and Dr. Roger Bingham, were influential in helping the brothers navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. Lucas says Dr. Bingham was—and continues to be—a mentor to him and Arturo.
Now, as Language Matters expands, they continue to be involved with Grace and its student body. Of their team of 13 tutors, six are current Grace students, and through their partnership with the school’s language department, they tutor about 70 college students in Spanish and French.
Tutors at Language Matters focus on “equipping leaders and learners in our community and really giving them a voice,” Lucas says.
Many Grace students who worked with Language Matters in college have become full-time employees after graduation, boosting regional talent retention, too.
“It’s been super nice to see that we’re a company that is doing what a lot of those students are passionate about,” Lucas says.
From left front are Jenny Ngoumape, David Sandi, Laysa Nocelotl, Bethany Fonseca, Lucas Fonseca, Leslie Rangel, Madeline Miller, and Aaron Nichols. Back row, from left, Taylor Fonseca, Katelyn Ware, Arturo Fonseca, Adelyn Jarvis, and Abigail Quarles.
Along with serving schools and academic institutions, the company seeks to span language and cultural gaps in regional small businesses wanting to reach employees and customers in the global marketplace. As such, it strives to give clients the communication skills they need to flourish in the workplace and broader community. For instance, the company has instructors focused on helping Latino community members adapt to American culture. It also offers free English classes to expand clients’ knowledge of the language and better express themselves in daily life.
Lucas enjoys the experience he has had learning from fellow tutors with different specialties at Language Matters.
“Having a lot of people from different backgrounds has really helped us create what our customers need,” he says.
In addition to group classes, the company works one-on-one with clients, tailoring lessons to each individual’s vocabulary and lifestyle. While clients for the individual program are typically adults, Language Matters is looking to expand its program to include children, and specifically, homeschooled children who have no other way to learn Spanish or French.
Recently, they worked with Rhonda Ladig, of Ladig Consulting
, to be accepted into the gener8tor’s gBETA Main Street program. Through the connection with gener8tor, they were also accepted into a program with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The program partners companies with finance students, who get real-life applications by making strategies for expansion and using data to form predictions for their businesses.
Looking to the future, Language Matters plans to grow its free English classes to a community-wide program with a goal to impact more than 1,000 individuals in Kosciusko County in three years. The company is also looking to partner with local companies that have an interest in supporting their mission.
With all the progress they’ve made so far, Lucas says there is still a lot of work to do in Northeast Indiana.
“There are so many places that need support and that could use help with these kinds of services,” he says. “I wish I would have known earlier.”
One thing he and Arturo have always known is that while language does matter, so do culture and belonging. By taking a more holistic approach to language services, they can help clients in Indiana and beyond better communicate and collaborate.