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Case study: Downtime gave me an opportunity to upskill

Case study: Downtime gave me an opportunity to upskill
Brian Allen
Brian Allen
Director/founder
Learn Spanish In

Posted: Fri 2nd Oct 2020

 
Brian Allen
Brian Allen
Director/founder
Learn Spanish In
 
I was labelled a failure when it came to learning languages at secondary school. I know that because 15 years later, whilst teaching in a bilingual project in Spain, I "bumped into" my ex French teacher. After some awkward moments, working out why our faces were so familiar, I told her about my work. But you were never a linguist! she exclaimed. Maybe I wasn't but I can empathize with those who struggle to learn a language. I've since learned of its other benefits,  A different language is a different vision of life, said Federico Fellini." I decided to learn Spanish when I was 30. I was teaching in a primary school in East London. I was dedicated to my work and really enjoyed it! However, realizing it was going to be a very slow process to learn Spanish through evening classes, I gave up my job after 7 years and went to South America for 6 months to live Spanish! I started off living with a family of subsistence farmers in the mountains of Ecuador. I had 4 hours of classes daily from a Spanish teacher...my first "full immersion" experience. Nobody spoke English. It worked! In 2 weeks I gained the confidence to communicate in Spanish, without fear of failure. I was ready for the road and spent the next 4 months mainly hitching my way through the Andes. There was so much to learn from its history and culture. I've since attended Spanish classes in Spain, Colombia and Panama. It's so important to listen to the learner's needs and past experiences before offering a Spanish school abroad or presenting a range of Spanish courses online. After 30 years of experience in managing a variety of roles in the education sector in England, St Lucia and Spain I have a good idea of what best motivates a student. Over the last 10 years, I've run "Inglés Ya," an agency that has successfully promoted English courses to the Spanish speaking world. I was often asked if I could provide the same for learners of Spanish. Therefore, in 2016 I started planning "Learn Spanish In." So that I could match the same high standards of Inglés Ya, I decided to grow things slowly. It’s taken 4 years to visit and select schools in Spain & Latin America. I've met the directors, Spanish teachers and support staff at each school, tried out Spanish lessons and checked out the accommodation. I've taken local transport and explored the local area and beyond. Small, high-quality Spanish schools support the local community in so many ways. They mainly employ local teachers and support staff, use the services of local guides and provide a welcome income for local host families. I believe it is a sustainable model that fits in with my personal values. Brexit stalled my launch plans and raised serious doubts. Then came COVID-19! With the sector in crisis, I couldn't have imagined a worse scenario to launch a Spanish language agency but here I am! I'm more determined than ever to support the wonderful schools and their local communities and provide others the best way to learn Spanish.