Learning a Language: Interview and Advice from a Language School Founder


Readers of the blog contacted me recently concerning language learning. To answer their question, I had the pleasure to interview Kathy, who is an expert in this domain.

Kathy is above all an example of women who have succeeded in fulfilling their passion and who continue to empower and to help others, as a mentor and an example.

Kathy has led many lives: a polyglot (she speaks fluently 4 languages and can converse in several others); from a young age she has travelled, lived, and worked abroad, was a self-initiated expat and the founder of a successful language school. She is now a retired businesswoman who remains extremely active and a fervent advocate of knowledge acquisition and openness.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Kathy:

As a first-time expat, what did you do to improve your local language skills?

After graduation, I first worked in the UK. Most days on finishing work, I went to the cinema and watched films in English. This was a pleasure and it also helped me enormously to improve my English skills.

Why do some people learn new languages easier than others?

Some people perceive more easily “sound” and “tune into the sounds”. When you are born or have lived in a multi-lingual environment, you discover from an early age the “sounds” of language. You are more perceptive to this difference in “sound.” Some languages share the same “sound”, others are more different. To be open and receptive to this are key for language learning.

Also, it can be linked to the country you come from. If you are born in a country which depends on foreign business, then you are more open to other horizons and other languages.

Why do some people have difficulties learning a new language?

Language is about communicating, having a conversation, a contact with others. In language learning, it is important to be open to and to listen to others.

Does language learning involve a certain capacity to adapt?

Yes, we need to remain open, to keep our minds open to change.

Your tips on learning a new language:

Be motivated and remain open. Keep your mind motivated on learning new things.

Visit the country (which unfortunately is not easy given the current situation).

Learn from a native language speaker. Meet and have conversations with native language speakers.

Be interested in the local country culture.

If your objective to learn is for career reasons, take contact with a recognized professional in the language and industry domain. 

What is your view on on-line learning and face-to-face language learning?

Language learning, when possible, is best conducted face-to-face with a native language speaker. Learning a new language should be lively, with a conversation, communication, and interaction between both parties.

When this is not possible, both the student and the teacher should take preliminary time to introduce and to meet each other via video. This will help to ensure you have chosen the right teacher and fit for you.

Thank you, Kathy, for your great insight and continued engagement to help others.


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