Na'atik Language and Culture Institute

Na'atik Language and Culture Institute

About

We are located in the heart of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Through our online and immersion language courses of Spanish, Maya and English, our purpose is to inspire global citizenship while supporting the local community in our small city, Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Through our love of languages, the celebration of different cultures and the sharing and learning in an authentic, respectful way, we promote intercultural understanding.

Our name, Na'atik, is part of the Maya expression: 'To'on na'atik' meaning 'We're understanding each other'.

Reviews

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Benjamin
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

I recommend this program.

I entered into this program because I've been trying to learn Spanish for work, as well take a well-needed vacation in another locale. I'd say I'm very much satisfied on both fronts.
The spanish was probably the most important part for me. I received about 4 hours of instruction a day from a bilingual teacher, Maestro Cesar. He spoke really well in both languages, helped me to identify personal objectives and create a personalized lesson plan, and covered topics in class that were both educational and fascinating on a personal level. I know just enough about teaching to know that he's clearly had some amount of professional training on how to do it.
Something that I found with personal classes/immersion that was missing from other types of Spanish learning is this capacity/path that leads to fluency. I think a lot of resources I'd used in the past (language apps, some online classes, videos, etc.) gave a good grounding, but there wasn't anything to get you to the level where you were having actual productive conversations with native speakers. Like Ronnie Coleman (famous bodybuilder) says, "There ain't nothing to it, but to do it."
Felipe Carrillo Puerto is this quiet, smaller town between cities on the Yucatan Peninsula, it's very tranquil, giving you a lot of opportunities to relax, try immersion, and do local stuff in a calm environment. The weekends, or well-planned afternoons, give you opportunities to head to Chetumal, Bacalar, Talum, or a handful of other places to take in local sights/attractions that aren't available in Carrillo, go to fancy restaurants, or in general do touristy stuff without the pain of having to live among tourists for a week or more (I actually really liked going to El Parque and randomly seeing a new vendor sell something I haven't seen before, but they just don't see keychains). I did a lot of my street-food testing and general relaxation in Carillo, and headed to Bacalar for kayaking around La Laguna de Siete Colores, buying souvenirs, and fine dining.
I think what was most interesting to me was the way that my rapidly developing Spanish changed the trip over the course of 2 weeks and about 40 hours of personal instruction. I learned how to better communicate to store owners to find some of the specialty items I was looking for over the course of the week. I went from barely hanging on to my homestay family to being able to have decent conversations and joke around from them, I was upset at the local attractions' insistence on responding in English when I had decent Spanish coming to Bacalar, and I'd like to think I was pretty helpful as a volunteer for some of the English immersion classes.
The homestay family was very kind to me. They fed me pretty well, went out of their way to make me feel included in their day-to-day life, and were available whenever I needed help. I remembered taking a trip to an abuela's house to do some Dia de Los Muertos celebrations and eat a bunch of tamales with the family-there's some sort of unspoken closeness to helping unwrap tamales with someone that I can't really explain. I leave with some sense of familiarity, but also this sense that there's something much deeper and richer here than I could have possibly found out on my own, like a lil fishie growing up and realizing they've been swimming over a cenote (find out what that is! by traveling to another country and swimming over it!)
Anyways, the irony of being in an excellent language program is that I now feel empowered to do trips in other parts of Latin-America/parts of the world that have many Spanish speakers, and don't feel a strong need to come back (I'm still planning to do the online courses). I definitely recommend this program for anyone who wants to travel, but doesn't have an idea of where they want to go, or anyone who has a desire to be in Mexico or learn Spanish.

Pros
  • Great Immersion/Classes
  • Exposure to Culture
  • Good Location
Cons
  • It's Hot Out
Default avatar
Annabel
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

10/10

An amazing, authentic immersion program! Would highly recommend for anyone who wants an off-the-beaten path experience. My Spanish level is basic, but my teacher Cesar tailored my lessons to my ability and interests. The attention you receive at this program is incomparable -- from the incredible excursions offered to the classes and homestay family. The trip to Bacalar and bike tour were amazing! My homestay family was incredible as well -- very patient, and kind. Immediately felt like a part of the family. As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe as well. Cannot recommend this program more!

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Erika
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Program

I was blessed to stay with a great family, that was composed of three generations which let me experience the culture from various vantage points. They introduced me to foods that i would never order in a restaurant. It was great not having to find good restaurants to eat. Oh, and the restaurant where the welcome dinner took place was really good as well. The teachers and staff were welcoming, knowledgeable and i learned a lot. They also helped to set up a few activities for us that were equally as fun and educational.

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Karen
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Na'atik Language and Cultural Institute

Na'atik offers classes in Spanish and Mayan for travelers who would like and immersion program. We lived in Felipe Carrillo Puerto where the school is located for 4 months and during this time both my husband and I took classes at the school. He took Mayan and I am still taking Spanish classes. When we returned home last March, I have continued to take Spanish classes twice a week with Pedro. Pedro is an experienced and skilled teacher, having both Spanish and English skills. He continues to be my Spanish teacher and coach. I appreciate his thorough approach to my learning and pronunciation. If you are interested in learning Spanish, there is not a better way to learn than from a native speaker!! I highly recommend Na'atik!

Default avatar
Hassan
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Na'atik Language and Culture Institute ONLINE!!!

We value the experiences travel, learning about different cultures and languages bring to our lives. As a result of that priority for us and our kids, we enrolled them in the online Spanish program at Na'atik. They have weekly sessions with Jose, a native Spanish speaker, they discuss soccer, food, travel experiences, more soccer etc.. It is super fun to see their Spanish skills improve through active conversation over the internet (visual and audio), which is perfect as we are hunkered down in the pandemic. Our kids were not very excited about this new activity at first, but now enjoy the sessions with Jose as they can sense that their Spanish is improving weekly, and the method is not a traditional learning method like a classroom would be, rather it is much more aligned with how I learned different languages....immersion. The program is super affordable and fun-highly recommended.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing-it is fantastic! I would actually consider offering different platforms such as Zoom so that people can participate from different locations or may be more familiar with another platform, such as Skype. Google Hangouts, the current platform, works well and is easy to adapt to. I'm a Zoom guy :).

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Jo Ryan

Jo Ryan is from Sydney, Australia. She graduated from the University of New South Wales with a degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Currently she works in administration, as well as furthering her studies in Archaeology, which is why she travelled to Mexico and spent a week learning Maya at Na’atik in early Feb 2014.
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What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

What made my study abroad experience special was that it was tailored to my needs, I was looking to really immerse myself in the language and culture, and the staff at Na’atik made it happen. They placed me with a wonderful Mayan family, I was able to listen to their language, learn their traditions and take part in their day to day life. Backpacking around Mexico was a lot of fun and I visited some incredible sights, but living and breathing as the locals do allows you to see and appreciate a place from a different, more real point of view.

How has this experience impacted your future?

This experience has enriched my future in a big way. Academically it has fuelled my interest in the Maya language and culture, and I continue to research both now that I’m home. My aim is to continue building my knowledge of the language so that I can communicate with locals and learn more about the ancient and present day Mayas.

My professional development has benefited from this experience in that I’ve gained an even broader understanding of other cultures and communication, demonstrating initiative and an interest in learning to my employers. But most important to me, on a personal level, this experience has given me amazing new friendships and connections that I will treasure forever.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Outside of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the best place I visited would have to be Tulum. Just 1 ½ hours away and really easy to get to from Carrillo, Tulum is a Caribbean paradise. Mild, turquoise sea and white sand beaches, it took some serious willpower to come out of the water!

There is accommodation to suit all budgets and restaurants to suit all tastes. I stayed at a fantastic hostel, where the owner took us out on a memorable ‘taco tour’ of the town.

The highlight for me in Tulum was, of course, its magnificent clifftop ruins. The combination of ancient buildings set on a cliff overlooking that jewelled sea was simply magical.

If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?

I would make my stay longer! I experienced and learned so much in such a short space of time, to think what other treasures I would have come across and how much more of the language I could have picked up had I been there longer has me checking return flights...

Felipe Carrillo Puerto first comes across as a fairly quiet, slow paced town, but the more you get to know the community the more you learn, and the people are so friendly and welcoming, so proud of where they live, they want to show you everything. I was taken around the town, to the buzzing market, baseball games, a nearby farm, beautiful lagoons, an amazing seafood restaurant, nightclubs and a Mayan community village...just to name just a few!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Blaiqe Allshouse

Job Title
ESL Teacher
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What is your favorite travel memory?

Only one?! I think my favorite travel memory would be hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province, China. It was one of my first solo travel trips and the gorge itself was a new experience for me as I had never done any kind of long-distance hiking or trekking. Of course, the internet had me scared out of my mind about being mugged or stabbed on the hike but I didn’t run into any of that. I had the most beautiful and peaceful two days hiking the gorge. I was on my own almost the whole way so I was able to take in every second of the serenity and calm that filled the gorgeous landscapes that surrounded me. I can’t wait to go back!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

There are many qualities that are important for the success of any company. I think one of the most important factors is organization. Whether the company is a school a non-profit or a hotdog stand on the side of the street, organization is of the utmost importance for that business’s success. If a company is selling a product or providing a service, organization is something that is expected from customers as well as staff. As an employee of the company, organization is key when it comes to workplace expectations, consistent paychecks, and a general, pleasant working environment. Even though it seems like an easy thing to overlook, organization is a huge part of a company’s success as it affects everyone, in and out of the company itself.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since I began working at Na'atik I have grown both professionally and personally. As a teacher, this is my first experience teaching teenagers so I have had to adjust my teaching style to suit this new age group. After teaching young learners for two years previously, it has been fun to be able to have deeper discussions with older students. It is interesting to hear both their opinions and life experience on the topics we discuss in class. Also with teaching a higher level of English to ESL students, I have been challenged in creating more in-depth lessons with more of a conversational or grammatical approach than simply vocabulary. I am definitely a more well-rounded teacher having worked at Na’atik.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Na’atik is definitely a unique company in several ways. I really like how we provide services both domestically (to the local community in Mexico) as well as internationally to students looking to learn Mayan or Spanish. The community and lifestyle in Felipe Carrillo Puerto is an incredible look into modern Mayan culture for foreigners to experience. And on the other hand, we are providing to local students an opportunity that otherwise would not exist for them in this small Mexican town. Overall, I think this creates very unique opportunities for both groups of learners. I also think Na’atik is unique in its size. We are a small company which fosters a laid-back, open working environment, which from a teaching standpoint, has allowed me to thrive.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Na’atik seems to have a large percent of return students, unlike anything I was familiar with in my ESL work in China. It’s neat to see classes that have studied English together for years and their closeness. The best stories I have heard from students are in general the opportunities the school has to expand their learning. For example, each year the Na’atik staff organizes a trip for the teen groups to go to Playa del Carmen, or this year to Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park in Riviera Maya. They have scavenger hunts and enjoy lunch and shows together, using their English in new and fun ways. Our younger students are invited to a camp where there are games and snacks in another exciting way to use the English they have learned in the classroom. It is activities like this that students have come to love from attending class at Na’atik.