April is always a time of reflection for me and this year is no different. Why? Lindsay Does Languages turns 5 this week! To celebrate, you can win a huge language learning giveaway with prizes worth over $700, but first, a little look back… [UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed.]
One thing I talk about a lot with both language learning and language teaching is that it’s important to remember what you see when you observe someone else speaking a foreign language or teaching online isn’t how it’s always been.
What you don’t see is the hours of study someone’s put in or the many hours driving that someone has taken between tutoring sessions. With that in mind, I wanted to pull back the curtain for this post and share some of my most memorable and/or significant moments over the last five years for my language learning and online teaching.
Ok, now it’s time to hop on into the time machine and take a look back at some of the biggest moments over the past 5 years…
2012 was a good time to British. We had the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics (that’s me in the Olympic Park above!)…it really was an amazing year for many reasons.
But as for Lindsay Does Languages, I got so lucky really early on when I was connected with a contract teaching English to groups of workers for a local company producing bread products. Just a month or so later, I was also teaching a summer school for asylum seekers, which was a really great experience.
Having those early group contracts meant I was able to keep afloat as I grew the private tuition side of things.
I initially said I’d give myself a year to see if it would work. My threshold was to earn more than my previous job as a Learning Support Assistant. To be honest, the pay for that job is so low that it turned out to be easier than expected, especially with the group contracts. However, it was still a challenge and a completely new concept to be relying on just myself to earn my whole salary.
As you probably know, I studied for my degree with The Open University, which is part-time distance learning. And the degree part-time takes 6 years!
When I started Lindsay Does Languages, I was only just going into my third year, studying French and also my second course in Italian.
In terms of teaching, things mostly stayed the same and grew comfortably. I was still working in the bread factory and did the same summer school teaching asylum seekers. However, by this point, I’d got my private lessons to a really great point where I was teaching students that lived 5 minutes from each other on the same evenings. It was seemless!
However, there was one big change that started to creep in. I had a couple contact me regarding French tuition who were just out of my catchment area. When I offered Skype tuition as an alternative, I pretty much expected them to say no and find someone else closer.
But they said yes! And they became my first online students…who I still teach to this day!
It was also 2013 when I decided to look more into teaching online and joined italki, getting my first few students.
So overall, things were going well, but something was about to change…
I was still working on my degree and finished the Italian and French to start Spanish and start from scratch with German!
I had never really wanted to learn German, but by this point, I was pretty obsessed with the idea that language learning was becoming easier and figured there was no reason not to do German, so decided to just go for it.
Truth be told…I absolutely hated German. It was easy at first but then there was this mysterious thing called cases that I’d never come across before, and that stopped me in my tracks.
As soon as I started to understand cases though, things got easier, and now I actually feel quite comfortable with my spoken Deutsch.
This was a big year for Lindsay Does Languages, and life in general. During 2013, Ashley (my now husband) was studying his teaching qualification here in the UK. And we knew that wherever he found a job, we’d have to move to.
I was beginning to see the potential of teaching online as a way to fill the gap in between moving and getting new face-to-face students where we were to move to.
I figured that if I was going to teach online, I’d need to increase my online presence. So in January 2014, on a break in the library between working on a contract in a private primary school teaching French lessons and my first private lesson of the evening, I hit publish on my very first blog post.
I already had Twitter, a Facebook Page, Pinterest and Instagram, even if I hardly used them. So I took to them and shared my first blog post. That was it.
A few people read it, probably mostly family and friends, but it didn’t break the internet.
I kept going.
I would write my blog posts during the week and hit publish every Tuesday in that same library for months. Soon people began to read more, and comment, and find Lindsay Does Languages.
Not long after, I hit publish on my very first YouTube video after being inspired by the fun process of making my italki introduction video.
By the end of the year, after moving house and now being too far to teach most of my face-to-face students, everything was completely online….but not for long.
I was still going with the German, and moved on to the second course while starting my final year of French.
And I was looking for things to write about on the blog. So I decided to write about learning German and my experience with the italki Language Challenge.
But I wanted something fresh to write about, I couldn’t just write about German, surely? I needed a fun language side project!
Remember that library where I’d hit publish on the blog every Tuesday? I’d always sit in the same spot by the language books, and I’d almost always get distracted and pick something up. One day I picked up ‘Teach Yourself Complete Dutch’.
It was the first language I’d be learning completely solo – without exams, without an official tutor, without set texts or resources.
It clearly inspired me, as by the summer I was ready for my second italki Language Challenge for the World Cup. Seeing as it was in Brazil, it made sense to study Portuguese! So I did.
That summer, I was learning FOUR languages pretty hardcore. It was a crazy busy time for languages in my life, probably even the busiest to this day. And I loved it.
At the end of the year, I was totally up for the autumn italki Language Challenge so went head first into Japanese!
We moved house at the end of 2014, and despite spending a year building up Lindsay Does Languages online, our internet did. not. work.
It was a disaster. I was completely deflated. After a few months, things improved but it wouldn’t be until early/mid-2016 that we actually got connected with useable internet.
So teaching 1-1 clearly wasn’t possible as a full-time thing with such shaky internet. Although I had a good amount of students, I also needed to look into other ways to teach and reach more students that didn’t rely on my time for a whole hour with each student.
This was the year I launched my first online course, Mastering English Phrasal Verbs Through Story, which was a real game-changer for Lindsay Does Languages and online courses I love to create and share. Win win!
Early in 2015, I also had an article published in The Guardian, which was incredible.
My final year of university study! I was due to finish my final year of Spanish study in October 2015 (but didn’t attend my formal graduation until October 2016 because I wanted to go to the ceremony in Milton Keynes, where I live, and also because my mum was travelling in Asia until late 2016).
Starting and growing a business at the same time as studying for a degree isn’t easy. That said, I’d done pretty well and was happy with my grades, all of which I’d passed, although the French years had been weirdly tougher for me, especially the last one where I’d got a ‘grade 3 pass’ (I’d previously been getting ‘grade 2 pass’ and ‘distinction’).
But I love Spanish. And I was not going to let that French score bring down my whole degree. I wanted to go out on a high. So I worked so. flipping. hard.
I focused only on Spanish for most of the year, I blogged weekly in Spanish, I studied for at least a whole hour each week day and minimum of 3-4 hours each weekend day.
And I got a distinction! My lowest individual grade in that final year (out of 100) was 82 – and that was the first grade of the year – so things really did get better and I finished with a solid 2:1 degree.
But I couldn’t stay away from other languages completely, which is why I set myself the Language Script Challenge, and studied over 30 different writing systems and alphabets, from Braille to American and British Sign Language to Burmese and Tibetan. It proved a pleasant hobby project to share on the blog, and remains a big interest for me to this day.
Late on in the year, I got back to Japanese, a language I love but had had to abandon temporarily to get that grade!
After being so inspired by Mastering English Phrasal Verbs Through Story, I knew I wanted to teach more online courses, which is why I launched Successful Self-Study at the start of the year.
The course is for learners of any language and draws a lot from my solo studies with the OU and completely on my own with Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese. (And it’s getting a big upgrade this year!)
But it wasn’t just language learners reading the blog and asking me questions online, I also had teachers getting in touch and wanted to help them too. That’s when I created the Online Teaching Starter Kit in summer 2016, which I’ve just launched again in March 2017, a few weeks before writing this.
Both Successful Self-Study and the Online Teaching Starter Kit are two of my favourite things I’ve ever created.
After attending language events internationally for a couple of years and vlogging about them on YouTube (the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad and the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin times two) and speaking at various events in the UK about language learning, I was honoured to be invited to speak at the first North American Polyglot Symposium (NAPS, now LangFest) in Montreal.
Montreal was always somewhere I had wanted to visit, and I honestly cried tears of joy as I squeezed Ashley’s hand and booked my plane ticket. It was such an honour, and I’m delighted to be able to go back this year.
After 6 years of formal study, at the start of 2016, I was ready for a very relaxed year of language study. I set myself 3 languages I wanted to look at, but had no formal goals, which makes a huge change for me!
It was a fun and relaxed year, just as I’d hoped.
This has already been a great year so far, both for Lindsay Does Languages and my own learning.
I opened the Online Teaching Starter Kit for enrollment again in March and will be updating Successful Self-Study in the coming months.
I have lots of plans for this year that can’t yet be shared here…but you might just get a little hint or two in the survey. Ha!
As for language learning, I’m currently still on Indonesian, but am planning to review some previous languages and maybe a new one or two as Ashley and I prepare for our year-long trip travelling around the world to discover languages and meet the people who speak them.
We leave in August for New York (and then Montreal!) and I cannot wait to see where this ridiculously exciting phase in Lindsay Does Languages will lead us both.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this very personal reflection on the past 5 years.
Here’s to the next 5 years. Thank you.