Meet The Culture School For The Insatiably Curious
With a twist on the conventional liberal arts education, this startup school intends on facilitating multi-dimensional learning
Whether you’re a globetrotter in search of more jargon to arm your linguistic arsenal, or a romantic hoping to woo your exotic partner, the need to learn new languages will never die out. But absorbing other dialects is a daunting undertaking that’s easier said than done, and most classes significantly drain your pockets before you begin to see any return on investment. For that reason, educational startup Fluent City has just secured a $2.5m USD round to help breed more polyglots through its unconventional teaching practices and experiential philosophy. The backing will also help the culture school expand its course offerings as it delves into frontiers outside of languages and into the similarly culturally oriented themes of art and design, food and drink, and culture and travel.
To learn how the brand is staying true to its cultural origins while exploring unconventional programs aimed to reinvent enrichment learning, PSFK caught up with CEO James Rohrbach for an exclusive interview on the future of the liberal arts.
At its core, Fluent City hopes to inspire people to discover their passions and live richer, more vibrant lives says Rohrbach. With the growth of their new immersion and discovery-based courses ranging from interior design and French culture to mixology and beyond, graduates have used their new skills for everything from falling in love to advancing their careers to conducting powerful not-for-profit work around the world.
“With this additional capital and first batch of new courses, we’re building the first ever cross-disciplinary hub for this kind of social learning and exploration. We’re also breaking the rules of traditional education by introducing both entertainment and hospitality into the mix,” says Rohrbach.
“No one has ever simultaneously bridged those three worlds—education, hospitality and entertainment—and it’s in this way that we’ve developed a highly distinctive offering. Yet the real meat of how to impart knowledge is surprisingly not all that different from subject to subject. We’ve designed an increasingly universal experience with considered moments along the way that make a student, or guest, forget that they’re ‘learning.’”
The formula for this cross-pollinating education and collective identity boils down to the company’s fundamental maxim: break the rules.
Whereas most language programs only hire native speakers for instance, Rohrbach finds that nonnative speakers are often more effective and empathetic toward tackling the learning curve associated with grasping language in all its complexity. To that end, Fluent City’s hiring practices place a premium on passion and the ability to connect with individuals above expertise in a particular subject matter. Another noteworthy departure from outmoded educational exercises is the location in which classes take place: through pop-up events and month-long immersions led by influential creatives and local experts from downtown warehouses to artist studios, Fluent city expands outlooks in diverse and colorful settings. Coupled with select courses which push the boundaries of themes or how a class should be structured, the company has meritoriously distanced itself from competitors also looking to disrupt the learning industry.
“Our target audience is less about a demographic and more about a psychographic. It’s really anyone who values culture, art, design, fashion, film, music, travel, etc. Which is a lot people.”
“We are starting with turf that’s close to home, namely urbanites, since they’re more likely predisposed to seeking out culture, but we envision going well beyond that,” adds Rohrbach.
Frustrated with their stymied creativity as they went through the motions of adulthood and entered the white-collar workforce, Fluent City was founded on the premise that there’s more to life than just work. The company started in 2011 in a Brooklyn apartment as a casual French conversation group with an emphasis on social learning, and after striking a chord with the community, it quickly grew to four cities, covering 10 languages with 23,000 members. Much like the perpetually exploring audience it caters to, the introduction of courses beyond language will help to broaden horizons and ring true to the culture school branding for the insatiably curious.