Pilar Contardo

Learning to Speak the Universal Language


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As one of the universal languages, English is spoken by individuals of all ages, races and cultures throughout the world. At Hodges University, the English as a Second Language (ESL) program attracts students from various parts of the world who desire to learn a language far different from their own. Pilar Contardo is one of these students, and her goal is to not only communicate more effectively with her children and their teachers but as an artist, she aspires to converse with individuals who take an interest in her artwork.

“Hodges’ ESL program has helped me to better understand others and become more confident in my abilities,” she said. “When I first started in the program, I didn’t know how to speak to others. Although I have more to learn, I now feel much more comfortable.”

Moving with her husband and four children to the United States in June 2016, the family settled in Naples, Florida, with a goal of learning the English language. Contardo, who is an established artist in her native Santiago, Chile, was looking for a university that could assist individuals such as herself in learning English.

Pilar and her family“We had vacationed in Naples several times, and I had visited Hodges, so I knew they had a good program,” she said.

Enrolling in Hodges’ ESL program in fall 2016 with only a basic knowledge of the language, she was hesitant of her abilities, but after taking both a written and oral test, the university’s ESL professors thought it suitable for her to enter Level II.

Focusing on the areas of grammar and writing, speaking and listening comprehension, and vocabulary and reading comprehension, students who enroll in the ESL certificate program learn to effectively communicate in English so as to pursue employment opportunities and/or better converse with other English speakers.

While each student has his/her own reason for enrolling, Contardo knew it was vital for her role as a mother and a businesswoman, so from Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m., she donned the hat of a Hodges student and diligently worked toward improving her English.

“Professors Elena [Chernyavskaya] and Nancy [Cheser] were so helpful. When I had a problem, they would look at my face and could immediately tell I was unsure of something,” she explained.

Graduating from the program in fall 2017, it was believed that the family would return to Chile; however, her desire to learn more kept them in Naples, which is why she decided to enroll in Level IV, which she will complete in winter 2018. More difficult than her previous courses, Level IV focuses on reading, writing and grammar with a strong emphasis on writing.

A sample of Pilar's artwork“There is less focus on speaking and listening in Level IV, but in order for me to grow in my English, I need to be able to read and write,” she said. “I want to learn more and continue improving.”

Once she completes the program, Contardo and her family plan to return to Chile in June 2018, where she looks forward to expanding her work as an artist.

Painting for much of her life, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in 1992. Her focus and style include imaginary characters, focusing on the human face. Using bright colors, she specializes in figurative art, placing her characters in intimate settings.

Considering her art as a personal reflection, she has exhibited her work in art galleries throughout Chile, including the La Sala Gallery, Arte Actual Patricia Ready Gallery and El Caballo Verde Gallery.

While living in Naples, she has participated in group exhibitions at the Naples Art Association and Artis-Naples, winning various awards for her artwork.

Once she and her family return to Chile, Contardo looks to connect with a gallery and begin expanding upon her portfolio of artwork, all while using her newfound English-speaking skills to better communicate with art enthusiasts and collectors.

“People from around the world come to visit Chile, and when they come to view my artwork, I want to be able to talk to them. Being an artist is my passion, but it is also a business and learning English is just one more way to effectively grow as a professional.”