At Zinta Inspired Language, the goal isn’t just to teach people a foreign language.
It’s to get them speaking it – now.
“This has been the core of the business all along,” said Vendla Smith, who started the business 17 years ago in her basement. “We give all levels of training, but people want to speak the language quickly rather than just study it academically.”
Zinta now operates out of 5,000 square feet in east Wichita, with plans to open a second location on the west side. It also teaches distance-learning students from Canada to Ecuador.
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For helping people connect across cultures in a world where it’s more necessary than ever, Zinta is the winner of the Murdock Award for Business.
“We get lots of stories from our students about how they deeply connected with another person because of our training,” Smith wrote. “That is what we are all about – connecting people.”
Smith was teaching Spanish and French at the high school and college level when a nursing supervisor at Via Christi Health asked her for help in 2000. The hospital system’s nurses were having trouble communicating with Hispanic patients, often at times when it was critical that they understand one another.
“They needed something to just bridge the gap,” Smith said.
Unable to find the right kind of curriculum, Smith went to work creating one of her own. She designed it to get someone speaking another language in the shortest amount of time possible.
Within a year, she had moved her classes to a small storefront in Derby, and in 2010, she found her current location.
Today, Zinta offers classes in Spanish, French, Portuguese and English as a Second Language, plus diversity and citizenship training, occupational seminars and interpreter services.
Smith is adamant that it doesn’t take years to learn a language – despite what some of us may remember from our high school days.
“If the correct instructional strategies are used, students should be off and running very quickly and can actually use the language as they learn it,” she wrote.
For instance, Smith presents a one-day “Spanish Today for School Nurses” seminar and a two-hour “Bridging the Gap” presentation each year at the National Association of School Nurses convention.
“Each year that I return, I hear how the knowledge gained from my seminars has impacted schools and helped the children and their families throughout our nation, which is a huge honor for me,” she wrote.
Another honor, she said, is when someone who has taken one of Zinta’s citizenship classes becomes a U.S. citizen.
“We all celebrate!” she said.
Zinta has clients of all ages. Its English curriculum is being used in two schools in Mexico. Smith and staff frequently present at local and national conventions.
For business clients, cross-cultural presentations are a key complement to language instruction. In an hour, Smith said, clients can learn how to make somebody from a different culture or country feel comfortable, even if some language barriers still exist.
“It goes a long way in building those relationships and expanding opportunities,” she wrote.
Smith concentrates on Zinta’s curriculum development and instructional strategies while her husband, Kerry, oversees business operations. She says their staff of instructors is highly motivated to help clients and has a deep appreciation of different cultures, languages and individuals.
“There is a lot of negativity in the world today, and we are all committed to making a positive difference in our community,” she wrote.
As for her own motivation, Smith says it’s about helping people see the world differently, which “makes for a great adventure.”
“I love adventure!”