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Best of New York Services 2004

Best Asian Language Lessons

  • ABC Language Exchange

    135 West 29th Street, Suite 1204; 212-563-7580

    Rachel Meyer’s business, like so many, grew out of personal frustration. Having majored in East Asian studies, she found her language skills woefully inadequate for a postgrad stint in Taiwan. “Learning a language should be organic,” Meyer says, adding that the usual Chinese-language teacher depends heavily on rote memorization. Before long, she’d started ABC, and her Chinese program has grown to seven teachers—herself plus five native speakers, all of whom are comfortable in English, and one U.S.-born fellow working on a Columbia Ph.D. in Chinese lit. (Basic classes are $260 for eight two-hour group lessons, $359 for twelve, or $550 for twelve hours of one-on-one.) “Our concept is that we’re not going to pontificate over the why,” Meyer says. “We’re going to get you over the initial hurdle: getting your tones right. We start out with four to five warm-up lessons, usually with a Westerner, before they work from a textbook.” Students range from globe-trotting Wall Streeters to toddlers, plus the occasional superspecial client like Uma Thurman (who learned Japanese for Kill Bill) or Peggy Kerry, John’s sister, who with her daughter takes ABC’s class for Western parents who’ve adopted Chinese kids. “We love it,” Kerry says. “We have a 6-year-old who takes Chinese at school, and we couldn’t help her with her homework before.”

From the 2004 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine