I’m not an explorer, a discoverer of lost cities, a breaker of records or a trekker into the unknown. I’m here because I had an idea, because I wanted to bring my excitement and passion for learning languages on location to others, after years of observing how brilliantly it actually works. I wanted to use my own experiences and those of my own students to allow people to go and do the things they love abroad, and learn a language at the same time, and because they wanted and needed to communicate with the people around them. I wanted to encourage people to step outside their ‘mother tongue language cushion’, grab the opportunity a spare week, month or year can offer, and connect with people all over the world. I could use my languages (I speak fluent Spanish and French, and can get by in several other European languages), my knowledge of education, travel, and experience of living and working all over the world to help make these connections, and perhaps make the world a slightly better place. Idealistic, I know, but I was increasingly worried by the fear of ‘abroad’ and of all things ‘foreign’ that I kept glimpsing in my pupils and their parents, and the lack of experience in teachers of taking visits overseas and being able to help students to do so in a useful and constructive way. Ordering a coke in Spanish with your parents when on a resort holiday is not going to lead you to greater things in the language, but learning to windsurf in Spanish just might!
I was brought up in a totally different world, encouraged by parents, grandparents and great grandparents all either born or raised in every corner of the globe, to go out and explore the world. I was sent off to live with distant cousins in Ecuador at 17, and ditched the teaching job I wasn’t qualified to do, to join the Ecuadorian National Symphony Orchestra. That was the beginning of my love affair with learning a language abroad, and 26 years later, once I started reflecting on why I wasn’t happy teaching in a school where no one seemed to value overseas study, it was my own experience which triggered the idea to help others use their hobbies to learn a language abroad. The world is safer than ever before, so why aren’t we making the most of it?
Then, one icy morning in December 2016, I guess when things seemed pretty dismal, the oddest thing happened when I was taking out the bins; I slipped, and broke my right leg in 3 places. After a month in a wheelchair, scores of hours of rehabilitation, 2 long surgeries and too many x rays and hospital appointments to count, plus a lot of thinking time, I’d settled it. I wasn’t going back to teaching in school, and the tentative steps I’d made to found my new company, The Language Gap, would become big bootprints. I have had to learn so much over the past year: branding, web design, blogging, marketing, social media (despite an innate loathing of the genre).
I determinedly dragged my family, my crutches and my useless leg halfway around the globe in 2017, and the freedom of mind that travelling always gives me also gave me the confidence and drive to focus on the task ahead. I began to heal, and with the healing and the fresh thought, my mind got extremely busy. I have learned to ask for help, the enormous value of good advice, and just how many times I think something is a brilliant way of marketing, and it turns out to be a waste of time and money. I have been speaking in schools, going to trade fairs, careers fairs, and trying to find my niche. I’m trying to persuade people that time spent abroad learning a language is time well spent. I’m supported; I couldn’t do this on my own. My incredible husband, and to our 3 boys (7, 11, 15) has been putting up with this crazy dream of mine, and has given me all his love and support. That is a rare position, and I’m unbelievably lucky to be living with my backer.
So what is The Language Gap? It’s a travel and language consultancy specialising in overseas language learning experiences. I believe passionately that the combination of doing what you love with likeminded people in a foreign language will help you to learn more quickly and effectively. I work with my clients’ budgets, hobbies, level and ambition for the foreign language they want to learn, organising activities, a job, a work experience, liaising with language schools and organisations to build unique experiences on location.
This can be any length of time, for any level or ability in the language, anywhere in the world. I troubleshoot every aspect of the trip,and ensure that every moment is spent doing something useful and fun. I ensure that the client is well prepared, briefed and debriefed. I love it! Every trip I organise gives me a massive buzz, a thrill of excitement, and I get the travel butterflies every time one of my ‘gappers’ heads off, a vicarious delight that I have inspired someone to dare to do something different, and taken a step to bring people and peoples closer together.
The plus sides are many, but mostly, I am inspired to travel more myself, and persuade the family that it’s worth coming too!