Skype is intended to help break down barriers to communication everywhere. So it’s particularly exciting to see small businesses pursuing that same mission, especially when they use Skype to do so.
I’m referring to the companies teaching languages via Skype. I’ve spent a good deal of time perusing the listings in Skype in the Workspace, and I can’t help but notice several involving foreign-language instruction.
It’s an incredible proposition. Skype has made it possible for a Brazilian to learn English through private sessions with a native speaker in London, all while sitting at their respective office desks. It’s amazing to think that this wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago.
And there’s a ripple effect business-wise. The success of these companies means more people know multiple languages, which means business gets conducted more easily across borders. Talk about a win-win!
I thought I’d share some details about a few companies devoted to language learning. Perhaps this will encourage some of you to say “yes” (or “oui” or “sí” or “是”) to brushing up your foreign-language skills.
LOI English teaches English as a second language to students around the world. The instruction is with native English speaking professional teachers via Skype, and takes place in 1-to-1 sessions, as well as group classes (using Skype Premium). The company launched in 2009 out of Whitefish, Mont., and is entirely virtual. Skype has been integral to its business model since day one.
“Our students live all around the world, and in many of their countries, Brazil, for instance, it is difficult and often prohibitively expensive to take lessons with a native speaker,” said company co-founder Paul Peters. “In the past, these students would have had to travel to the United States, Canada or England to really study English. Now they can easily take lessons from their home or office via Skype.”
The English Academy Online
The English Academy has taught English to European adults in Brussels since 1947. For years, the institution fielded requests from potential students in other locales, who wanted to take its classes but were unable to travel to Belgium.
In 2008, the Academy opened its virtual doors on its Web-based school, The English Academy Online, which provides private English coaching via Skype video. This new initiative came after careful consideration of the various technical options that would allow for this type of instruction.
“Several solutions were examined, including virtual classrooms and blended learning software,” said the school’s general director, Edgard Frederix. “But most of these options had flaws: too cumbersome and difficult to set up, not flexible enough, shaky and unreliable sound quality often blocked by firewalls, etc. Fortunately, there was one exception to the rule: the Skype software proved to be an easy-to-use, flexible and very reliable alternative.”
Vanessa Perez is a private Spanish-language tutor working in London. For nine years, she has provided in-person instruction to students in that city. Just this year, she decided to integrate Skype into her business. According to Vanessa, Skype provides a good option for people who want to learn or improve their Spanish, but don’t have the time to travel to meet with her.
“Some students just need to practice speaking, listening and conversation, and as the lessons are cheaper using Skype, I can tutor online that way,” said Vanessa. “We can do listening together and check if they have understood everything. We talk about different topics and even listen to songs. We can fill in the gaps with the missing words on the worksheets I send to them.”
Have you integrated Skype into your core business model, as these language instructors have? Tell us about it.