Kifah Abdulla

Kifah was born in Baghdad, Iraq and attended the College of Science there in the 80’s from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. His journey has then taken him from Iraq to Jordan, to the Netherlands and currently to Portland, Maine. Kifah is a visual artist, poet, activist, P.O.W., exile, and teacher. He has taught, painted, and written poetry mining his life experiences and yielding work with humanitarian and universal themes of love, freedom, hope, and peace.

Since 1997, Kifah has taught science and Arabic in the Netherlands and Jordan and more recently in Portland, he has taught Arabic to non-Arabic speakers in both its classic, academic form as well as its dialect forms, instilling in his students a sense of appreciation and greater curiosity for the cultures this unique language embodies. He is a natural teacher who loves to further share his talent by volunteering at The Telling Room.

We are pleased to welcome him to The Language Exchange where we offered Modern Standard Arabic for the first time in the winter of 2015.

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Kerry Anderson

Kerry was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, where her interest in German began. Long before she came along, her grandparents housed and helped a family of war refugees from Germany and Poland find their footing in the United States. Kerry was always interested in this part of her family history, and she also developed an early affinity for German electronic music and contemporary German culture. Kerry moved to Halle/Saale, Germany in 2004, where she worked at an English language school. Kerry loved being immersed in Germany and loved her work with students and teachers at the school. She went on to earn a M.A. in German from a joint program of Bowling Green State University and the Universität Salzburg, then moved to Maine in 2008 to teach German at Lawrence High School. Since moving to Maine, Kerry has taught German, tutored, helped develop language programming for a children’s summer camp, worked at the lovely German restaurant Schulte & Herr, and supported both German and American students taking part in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program.
Kerry’s other interests include dancing, site-specific performance, walking, reading, writing, translating, playing baseball, and volunteering at Planned Parenthood and the Southern Maine Workers’ Center.

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Emma Adams

Emma has just returned to her home state of Maine after almost 5 years working at the American Embassy in Rome, Italy, where she was frequently a source of language and cultural tips and hints to both the American and Italian staff there. Emma always felt a strong connection to her Italian heritage – her great-grandparents had emigrated from Southern Italy to the US shortly after the turn of the century. She moved to Italy after recognizing this part of her personal history, and of course Italy in general, was a recurring theme in her whole adult life. At Smith College, Introduction to Italian was the one and only course she knew she wanted to take as a freshman. That led to a Junior Year Abroad experience in Florence, Italy, and a double major in Psychology and Italian Language & Literature.

After graduation, Emma moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work for an Italian tour operator, where she had the amazing opportunity to not only design individual and group tours to Italy, but to continue using her language skills, to visit new destinations herself, and to provide destination assistance and customer service to her American clients, many traveling abroad for the first time. Three years later, she moved to Rome to fulfill an old dream of living abroad; she found an apartment near the Tiber River, a job at the Embassy, and began what would become a 5 year adventure as an American in Italy. She recently moved back to Maine and is thrilled to be able to help others experience the magical feeling of communicating in a second language, especially a language she particularly loves.

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Nela Alvarez-Sotomayor 

Nela comes from Puerto Rico and spent her childhood summers with her extended family in Spain. Growing up in a bilingual family, opened up the doors for her to pursue her undergraduate studies in Fine Art Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology after her graduate studies in teaching at the University of Southern Maine. For the past 17 years she has been teaching Spanish and Photography at South Portland High School.

Throughout her life she has traveled to many countries in Central and South America, Europe and the Caribbean. She has led a group of students to Costa Rica to work with the leatherback turtles, and volunteer with a local school in Guatemala.

Nela always tells her students how lucky she is to be able to teach the two subject matters most adults want to learn but never get around to: Spanish and photography. She enjoys sharing her photography and all of her travel adventures.

Nela resides in Cape Elizabeth with her liver spotted Dalmatian, Carmina. When Nela is not teaching, you can find her playing tennis, skiing, baking, or making plans for her next trip.

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Madoka Iriguchi Tonge

Madoka Iriguchi Burkinshaw

Madoka was born and raised in Ehime, Japan. After she earned her degree in English Literature from the Women’s College of Kyoto, she worked for several Japanese companies such as Japan Financial News, Kanebo, and Sony. Since she was drawn to travel overseas, she went to Canada to further her studies of English and worked for a travel agency in Niagara Falls. Before coming to the United States, she traveled to many countries from Europe to Asia gaining many firsthand cultural experiences.
She attended the University of Southern Maine and earned her B.S. in Computer Science in 2004. She has been teaching Japanese in private lessons and group classes at The Language Exchange since 2006 as a way of staying connected and sharing her culture and language. She currently lives in Dover, New Hampshire.

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Lilit Danielyan

Lilit Danielyan was born in Armenia. Her family moved to Kazakhstan shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her parents instilled the love of Armenian culture in their family while their children were studying Russian and Kazakh in school. Lilit discovered her interest in languages at a very young age. She learned English while dreaming of traveling the world… someday.

Lilit studied International Relations at the Karaganda State University in Kazakhstan. Her knowledge of three languages afforded her the opportunity to work as an interpreter for journalists at the OSCE Summit in the capital of Kazakhstan and Astana Economic Forum during her years as a student. It is around the same time that she discovered the amount of opportunities the knowledge of foreign languages could give a person. She also then began teaching English as a foreign language.

Lilit moved to the United States in 2012. She fell in love with New England landscapes, and hasn’t left the area since. While becoming fluent in English, she quickly realized the importance of having had extensive training in her native languages, Russian and Armenian, and as a result she began teaching Russian in private settings.

Besides her interests in foreign languages and cultures, Lilit is also fond of photography, cinematography, literature, music, history, and psychology.

Lilit is joining our faculty this fall (2018) and is very excited to be able to share her extensive knowledge of Russian language and culture with our community. She believes that dedication and inspiration are key elements to successful learning.

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Enrico Della Pietra

Enrico was born in the southern city of Naples, Italy, where he lived for most of his life. He received a degree in Physical Education at the University of Naples, and a degree in Education Sciences, with a specialization in History and Philosophy at the University of Cassino. Enrico has 20 years of experience working as a teacher, both at the University and high school levels while concurrently working as a coach and strength and conditioning trainer for soccer and basketball teams. He has been a prolific traveler throughout his life, having proudly stepped into nearly every continent. He recently relocated to Maine in the summer of 2015 with his American wife and Neapolitan cat, and he considers his residence in America another inspiring adventure. His two main passions in life are contemporary history and photography, so he is thrilled to have recently opened his very own photography studio here in Maine, where he can share his art with the community.  

He is proud and honored to share with other Italophiles the beauty of Italy’s language, arts, customs, and all other lesser known aspects of the Italian lifestyle.

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Diana Domínguez

Diana was born and raised in Venezuela, into a Venezuelan/American bilingual family. As a child she moved around a lot, with frequent summer visits to her grandparents in Wisconsin, and two years in Holland, where she graduated from an American high school.
She graduated as a Psychologist in Caracas, Venezuela, after which she spent a year in Paris to polish her French. She was a Social Psychology Professor at the Universidad Central in Venezuela for over 20 years.
Upon retiring, she embarked on a second career as an ESL teacher as well as an English-Spanish and Spanish-English translator. She also went back to her youthful passion of photography, taking courses in a Venezuelan photography school, which gave her the opportunity to indulge in a second passion -travel- and to participate as a photographer in various projects and events.
Diana has recently relocated to Portland to live near her daughter and is excited to be able to help others learn to communicate in Spanish and to share her Latin American culture and experiences. At the same time, one of her great pleasures in teaching is being able to learn from her students.
Her free time is spent walking around Portland, reading and photographing and, whenever possible, travelling.

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Valérie Guillet

Valérie founded The Language Exchange in 1992 and has been its director since. She was born in France in a small town located between Annecy (Haute-Savoie) and Genève (Switzerland). She grew up in this French part of the Alps and lived there until 1986 when she began College at the Université Jean Moulin, Lyon III. She started a Master’s Degree in Business and Languages which she completed in the MBA program at SUNY Binghamton while on an exchange program. While at Binghamton, she started an interdisciplinary graduate program where she specialized in Social Sciences – adult development – and Translation, fields in which she had a keen interest.

Following her thesis, a translation of Joyce Carol Oates’ All The Good People I’ve Left Behind, she decided to move to Maine where she has lived ever since. It now feels like home to her although her heart and soul always seem to be rejuvenated when she has an opportunity to speak French and be around French people. Something with which most expatriates can identify. She goes to France every year, sometimes more than once, and receives the best of both worlds. Her travels have allowed her to see her country in a different light and in a way to keep a more objective opinion of the culture of which she is a product. As such, she has rediscovered Provence where she spent most of her summer vacations as a child – when not in Italy to visit her relatives – and continues to find it an idyllic place and hopes to be able to share this vision with you. As for Martinique, Dordogne, and wherever else her next immersion programs will take her, they are parts of France she first encountered through literature and later on explored and studied until it became impossible to not want to share all of their little secrets.

Valérie has taught children and adults alike for the past 25 years with the same passion and commitment to her students’ progress and enjoyment. She has been a Lecturer at Southern Maine Community College, the University of Southern Maine, and Bowdoin College. She also spent 10 years as a three-season track coach for young women at Cheverus high school in Portland. When a teacher, always a teacher. It doesn’t matter what you teach if it’s your life’s calling!

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Angela Gozálvez

Angela Gozalvez was born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia. She graduated from Law School and has a Master’s Degree in Economic Law.

She worked for 7 years as an attorney for Iberdrola, one of the largest multinational companies in the energy field, where she met her husband. In November 2007 they moved their family to the United States, first to Pennsylvania and then to Maine, where she has found her happy place.

With new-found energy, Angela decided to leave the law and change careers to pursue one of her biggest passions, the Language Arts, and find an outlet to express herself as a proud Latina woman. She began working as an editor for DIGITALIA, Inc., a publishing company with offices in Spain and New York, in 2011 and concurrently, followed her desire to further share her culture and language by first organizing informal classes, Spanish conversation gatherings, as well as private lessons, and in the fall of 2017, joining the faculty of The Language Exchange.

Being married to a Spaniard, raising trilingual kids and traveling to South America and Spain every year, allows her to have a perfect sense of the cultural differences that affect the use of the Spanish language and its interactions.

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Andre Lucas Slavick Hiltner

Andre was born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, the country’s first capital and third largest city. His last names come from Polish and German backgrounds. Raised in a bilingual home with an American mother and a Brazilian father, his childhood dream – as is the case for many of his compatriots — was to become a soccer player!

He holds a BS in Journalism from the Faculdade Social da Bahia and his original passion naturally directed him to be a sports radio broadcaster, club media manager and reporter, with now over 500 professional soccer games covered. Andre worked at CBN, a branch of Globo, Brazil’s most powerful and influential media group. Meeting people and learning about different cultures has always interested him. Since relocating to Portland in March of 2019, Andre has worked mostly as an interpreter spending a considerable amount of time with newly arrived asylum seekers from Angola and developed a keen interest for this unique form of communication. Applying his communicative skills in more than one fashion, Andre naturally found his way to the Language Exchange where he will be teaching Portuguese starting this fall. Vamos?

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Viveca Kwan

Viveca Kwan

Viveca is an American born Chinese and was raised bilingually, speaking both Mandarin and English while growing up on the East Coast. With her dual perspectives and experiences Viveca is able to bridge both cultures and effectively teach Chinese language and culture especially to native English speaking students who may have had limited exposure to Mandarin Chinese. She has spoken Mandarin since birth and continued her formal language studies at Brown University, The American University Washington College of Law and abroad in China. She has participated in a Chinese law program at Peking University in Beijing during law school and has traveled extensively throughout China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Viveca Kwan is a Maine certified K-12 Mandarin Chinese teacher and has been teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture to students of all ages from pre-K to adults in the greater Portland area for over 10 years. Viveca has taught an introductory Mandarin course at Cape Elizabeth High School and also has taught Mandarin and Chinese culture enrichment courses at the Chinese American Friendship Association of Maine’s Chinese School in Portland. She has tutored adults in conversational and business Chinese. Viveca’s classes are designed to be both instructional and fun, engaging students of all ages in interactive activities that appeal to various learning styles. Traditional and modern Chinese culture is integrated into each language lesson through music, art, games and multi-media materials.

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Andy MacDonald

Andy MacDonald was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He holds a BA in French Studies from Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick, and an MA and PhD in French Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has studied in Strasbourg, France, and lived and worked in Tours and Toulouse. He has taught in universities and colleges in Colorado, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

He is a passionate scholar and practitioner of theatre and performance in French and English. He loves to engage students by helping them learn to express themselves, and to connect with others through language and self-expression. He is particularly fond of helping students develop their language skills in connection with their knowledge of francophone cultures, and brings a spirit of improvisational play to teaching.

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Nina Garces Ornstein

Nina’s education, training as a teacher, professional experience, and deep familiarity with English and Latin cultures are at the core of her facility for understanding and assisting adult learners on their quest to acquire or perfect their communication skills in the Spanish language.

Nina was born and raised in Lima, Peru, in a family that originates from Spain and the Basque country. After high school she travelled to London to become a Montessori teacher and taught Spanish through music to pre-school children. A visit to family in New York City later prompted her decision to study computer science and stay in the United States. During that time Nina further applied her interest and skills in teaching as she engaged in tutoring services for intermediate and advanced students of Spanish.

In 1987, Nina and her husband moved to Maine where she worked as a Systems Manager for an insurance agency. As a parent seeking the flexibility afforded by home-based offices, Nina launched on a new path in 1995 upon completing the written part of the US Federal Court Interpreting Certification. She created MTIS – Maine Translation and Interpreting Services – an English-Spanish translation business that she led for nearly 10 years. She then returned to a data and business analyst career for Thomson Reuters’ Life Sciences division where she continued to use her Spanish to assist various pharmaceutical industry clients in Spain and Latin America.

Yearning for a Spanish-speaking community with which to share her language and culture, Nina coordinated a casual Spanish conversation group for 25 of its now 30 years of existence!

Nina lives in Scarborough with her husband and visits Peru regularly where she still has family. She enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, watercolors, and playing her accordion when she feels nostalgic. Nina is looking forward to imparting her life-long commitment to, and experience with acquiring language and communication skills with her new students at The Language Exchange.

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Kaoru Watanabe Phillips

Kaoru Watanabe Phillips

Kaoru is a native of Chiba, Japan. She received a BA in Anthropology/Geography and an MA in Adult Education from USM. She is currently Assistant Director of International Programs at USM. Kaoru advises and assists ESOL, international and study abroad students. She is also an advisor to USM’s Asian American Association and Symposium student organization.

Kaoru is a member of Maine Aomori Sister State Advisory Council (MASSAC) and a member of the Japan American Society of Maine.

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Marlies Reppenhagen

Marlies grew up in the Hanseatic city of Lübeck. Her interest in languages and other cultures first brought her to Maine as an exchange student, but her affection for Maine and its people eventually led her to move here permanently. For the last eighteen years, she has lived in Portland, where the proximity of the ocean and the handsome brick buildings remind her of her native city.

Marlies has a degree in teaching English and French from the University of Freiburg and a M.A. in German from Middlebury College; she has taught German at the high school and college level as well as in adult education programs. Her interests include hiking, biking, reading, and traveling – and always learning more languages!

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Nina Schmir

Nina Schmir

Nina’s love for the French language and culture began early in childhood growing up with a French father and an American mother. She studied French at the University of Maine before continuing with her studies at the University of Toulouse-Mirail, subsequently living in Toulouse for six years. She traveled extensively throughout Western Europe and spent several years teaching English as a Foreign Language.

She has a special affinity for the food and culture of Southern France, and has spent a good deal of time in smaller cities and villages, immersing herself fully into the lifestyle.

She visits her favorite regions as often as possible to see friends and family, and familiarize herself with the latest colloquialisms, new literature and music.

Nina moved to Maine from New York City in the summer of 2009. Recently, she has discovered the joy of translation and interpretation and has worked as an interpreter on several film shoots in New York City. She is currently enrolled in the translation certification program at New York University.

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Camille Vande Berg

Camille Vande Berg

A native of Chicago, Camille attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a BA, MA and PhD in French. Her passion for languages has led her to study French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Latin, Russian, German, Mandarin and Lingala. She has lived for a total of seven years in France, Spain and Italy and has also travelled extensively in Canada and Latin America.

Camille has been a faculty member at a number of colleges and universities in the US and Europe, most recently at the University of New England.  She has published numerous articles and delivered many conference papers on language teaching and learning.

In her spare time Camille enjoys reading, solving Sudokus and taking long walks with her husband and their golden retriever.

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