Language & Friendship, Inc. has a staff with more than 100 years of combined experience in intercultural and educational programs. The benefits of this expertise are reflected in the high-quality service provided.
Naomi Thomsen, Founder of Language & Friendship
Educational travel abroad was a passion for Naomi, who created Language & Friendship, Inc. The daughter of missionaries, she grew up in Madagascar. She received her teaching degree and her Master’s in French, worked at Concordia’s Language Villages, led for the Experiment in International Living, and taught in St. Paul, MN before getting into student travel. After 16 years of directing French programs for other organizations, she created L&F in 1988. In May 2004, the French government awarded Naomi the prestigious honor of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques in recognition of her work. Naomi passed away in 2004, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Her spirit of optimism and determination will always be the inspiration and driving force behind Language & Friendship.
Liane Mattson, Director & Coordinator of Programs to Québec
(with L&F since 1998) After her program abroad through Concordia College, she knew she wanted to share the excitement of experiencing another language and culture. She has a double major in French and biology, worked at Concordia Language Villages, and, during her years of teaching, led students abroad several times. She was the National Director of Nacel Cultural Exchanges, organizing programs in France, Germany, and Spain. She is passionate about language education and about promoting opportunities for people to learn about other cultures. As well as many trips to France and Spain, Liane has traveled in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Russia, and Turkey. She and her husband, Jim, have three children (’80, ’84 and ’86) who all love travel, music, and sports. They love spoiling their grandchildren, too!
Jennifer Beattie-Cramer, Co-Director
(with L&F since 2017) Jennifer’s love of languages began in her high school French class with a trip to France followed by hosting a French teenager during the summer. In addition to French, she studied Spanish in high school and in college. She earned a double major in International Relations and Economic Theory from American University in Washington, DC. While in Maryland, she connected with a team of international economists and was invited to work in Spain with an NGO. During her two years in Madrid she mastered the Spanish language through daily Spanish immersion. Since then she has used her language and cultural skills in a variety of settings, including teaching and interpreting. She spent the past 15 years coordinating, managing, and leading student programs abroad to Spanish, French, German, and Chinese speaking countries as well as welcoming students from Europe to the United States. Along with her husband, she is raising bilingual children through Spanish immersion schooling, travel abroad, and hosting at home.
Rachel Aldrich, Coordinator of Special Projects
(with L&F since 2004) Rachel had her first experience with Spanish as an AFS student in Argentina. She fell in love with the language and majored in Spanish. At the University of St. Thomas, she spent her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain. She taught high school Spanish for several years and led students on programs to Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, and also on mission trips. Rachel loves to explore new places both locally and abroad and immerses herself with the locals and their food! Rachel, her husband, Stacy, and their son (’13), like to camp, ski, and, of course, travel and host!
Barbara Keenan, Coordinator of Information & Technology
(with L&F since 2006) Barbara’s love of languages started in junior high with a German class, which she continued throughout high school and into college. She studied Spanish at the University of St. Thomas, where she enjoyed her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain. After teaching Spanish and leading her own student groups to Mexico, she moved to Japan to teach English. Barbara has hosted leaders and loves creating international friendships. Barbara spends her time off with her many family members and also enjoys running, tennis, and, of course, traveling!
Laurence Gallarato, Coordinator of Programs to France & Martinique
(with L&F since 2008) A French native, Laurence grew up in Paris and lived there for 19 years. She now loves to go back “home” to visit her family in the beautiful regions of Bordeaux and Bearn. After studying in Bordeaux with a double major in History/Arts/Geography and Tourism, she worked as a tour guide in Europe before moving to the U.S. in the 1980s. She has been a teacher and has organized family-stay programs in France. She loves to travel and some of her favorite destinations (besides France, of course!) have been Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Mexico. Her hobbies are taking care of her grandsons, playing volleyball, dancing, reading, and going to movies.
Michelle Roemmich, Coordinator of Hosting Program
(with L&F since 2016) Michelle started learning French in middle school and never stopped. She attended the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire where she earned a double major in Elementary Education and French teaching. During her time at UWEC, she studied abroad in Montpellier, France, where she lived with a host family in France and took advantage of the many travel opportunities in Europe. After graduation, she returned to France as an English language assistant in Niort. Michelle returned to Eau Claire, WI, the following year and spent the next several years teaching high school French. She organized a student trip to France with L&F and helped find numerous host families in the Eau Claire community before joining the L&F team! Michelle enjoys traveling, discovering new French films, seeing theatrical performances, and spending time with family and friends.
(with L&F since 2017) Elizabeth has always had a love for languages. She majored in Spanish and French at the University of Iowa, which provided the opportunity to live in Lima, Peru for a Spanish-immersion and host-family experience. The international friendships made during this experience were a life-changer! She continued on to live and teach English in Madrid, Spain, and eventually returned to Peru to work as a travel advisor and English teacher. Upon her return to the United States, she worked with teachers and students as a Cultural Liaison at South St. Paul High School, providing translation and interpretation services to connect Spanish-speaking families to the school system. She travelled with a student group to Costa Rica and loved seeing how the experience impacted both students and host families. In her free time she enjoys photography, brushing up on her French, Crossfit, reading, and traveling whenever she can!
(with L&F since 2017) Maria’s love of language started in junior high with an English class, which she continued through college. She was born and raised in Northeast Mexico, and studied at the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila – Facultad de Ciencias de la Administración, where she earned an Accounting and Business Administration degree. She moved to Minnesota in March 2011 and is raising two children with her husband James. She is passionate about language education, appreciative of cultural diversity and promotes cultural awareness and community services. She enjoys volunteering with programs for seniors or children with physical/neurological disorders. She likes spending time with family and friends, doing crafts, watching movies and cooking. Her vision is parallel to Language and Friendship’s and by joining this organization, she will be able to learn and develop new skills, rebuild her spirit of optimism and determination, which she shares with our beloved founder.
Liz Horstman, Accountant
(with L&F since 1997) First introduced to Language & Friendship by her friend and neighbor Naomi Thomsen, Liz (a CPA by trade) has worked as the accountant for L&F. On different occasions while growing up, Liz’s family lived in Oxford, England, where her father was a visiting professor. While living in England, her family traveled through Europe, particularly enjoying the Loire Valley. As a result she is still trying to master the French language! Liz and her husband have three children (’88,’92 and ’94). Liz’s oldest son spent a semester in Spain. Her daughter, who taught for two summers at Concordia Language Villages, is majoring in Spanish and International Relations at Pitt. Liz’s family has also enjoyed hosting students from Spain and France.