Announcing How I'm Working to Combine My Three Passions

Today's blog post is an announcement, an open letter and something from the heart for everyone who follows the Fluent blog. I'm hoping to start a new chapter in my professional story. I will be announcing a few changes to Fluent Language, and introducing you to my new venture.

First of all, I want to give you the quick history of how far Fluent has come since its start in 2012. When I first launched this website, my first steps into offering lessons (without a teaching certificate!), I was absolutely delighted at finding the blogging platform I have. I was not setting out to take over the world, but at the same time I totally was. My first articles went straight to the meat and were all about making it clear what I want to stand for. Along the journey, you readers have come along and found those values with me. I've got amazing language students from all over the world, and have worked from my tablet and laptop while I was on the road. And then I self-published the Fluent Guides. Not bad for a girl from Mülheim, right?

Finding My Purpose

Every project and every business is a journey that changes on a regular basis. And for me, chatting straight to you in the 50 Calls Project has been the start of something amazing.

As a one-woman business, I believe that finding my best purpose and putting your AND my happiness first is very important. For me, this is all about combining my two passions. One of them, you already know: Language learning! Languages! Making the world multilingual! But what's the second passion, you ask?

It's all about what's underneath that language passion. My big passion in life is communication. It's why I love marketing, why I get inspired when I see a bilingual road sign and where I draw my energy from. Talking to people makes me happy. So in my business, I want to combine communication and service to individuals that I really believe in.

The third passion that I have is all about inspiring, encouraging and promoting others. I love teaching, coaching and mentoring because it allows me to make others succeed.

Compass for Online Teachers

I already mentioned how many Fluent readers I have had the pleasure of serving as part of the free 50 Calls Project. I've found that my own story of how I started Fluent and how much I believe in following my path has resonated with many other tutors. Many of you dream of trying out online business -- becoming authors, bloggers, teaching online and combining your passion with a real income.

That's not crazy. It's possible, it's amazing and it requires a bit of a helping hand.

Online teaching is a set part of our future. It's going to change the world of work and learning. And independents are leading the way, so this is why my next service will not be for language learners, but for anyone who wants their own Fluent.

I will launch new programme in October. The title is COMPASS and the information is at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/teachers. It will be perfect for anyone who finds him- or herself where I was a few years ago, unhappy in my work and wishing I could do things my way. You don't have to become a German teacher. This is all about showing you how to stand out in a busy marketplace, find the students you are right for, and making a living on your own terms. I am giving this my all for the next three months and if you're on the programme we will brainstorm, find solutions, students and new independence together.

While I go and work hard in the website mines for creating the first ever Kerstinhammes.com presence, you will find that Fluent is going a bit quieter. This wonderful Fluent community is a fantastic boost to me and it will not go away, so look out for a great bunch of posts and thoughts. They might be different to what you know, but with the usual thoughtful perspectives intact.

Here's the Important Thing

If you are starting a teaching business and struggling with being independent, working from anywhere, saving time and earning more, then you have to join us, because THIS IS FOR YOU! I have a special list for Compass candidates.

Simply visit the quick email registration page and sign up. You can find out lots more information about Compass here.

Thank you for being along for the ride.

Tips for the Bilingual Job Hunt from Jobcoconut

I'm excited about today's guest post for you guys. If you've listened to my podcast with Peter Rodway, you know that I am completely convinced that languages are your way into the most beautiful careers. Today we'll be hearing from the team over at Jobcoconut, a global jobs site offering amazing appointments all over Europe. These tips are about how to show off your language skills to make sure you walk into that job you want.

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

Over to the Coconuts:

So if you are based outside your home country and you are fluent in more than one language, then you’re more likely to land a top language job as HR departments and recruiters are always seeking job seekers with language skills.

In particular, if you speak a hard to source language such as the Nordic, Scandinavian or Eastern European languages then you will be in high demand, which means you can easily land yourself a well-paid job in top European cities. Language jobs across all European countries also seek Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch speakers. So the opportunity is there for all bilingual job seekers.

Studies carried out by the recruitment companies clearly show that candidates who speak two languages earn a lot more than non-bilingual speakers. Another advantage for having language skills is it can allow you to form a vital part of a company’s growth strategy. Whether it’s trying to enter new markets on a national level or expand to other countries, having a second language makes you a valuable part of any organisation.

But wait…

Are you actually bilingual?

The term “bilingual” has had a few different definitions over time, and this is one we can all agree on: Bilinguals “can communicate just as easily in one language as you can in the other”. Your language proficiency should be measured in terms of your speaking, reading, writing and listening abilities in each language.

Many people exaggerate on their CV about their level of proficiency in a language. It is important that you are entirely confortable in a business environment using both languages. There's no cheating: Bilingualism not only demands a command of the structure of the language but an understanding of the other language’s nuances such as its sense of humour.

How can you prove that you’re bilingual to an employer?

The best way to prove it is during the interview. If bilingual language skills are important the employer/recruiter will communicate to you in both languages. They will be able to tell straight away if your language skills are right for the position. This is common amongst recruiters as they require assurances they have got the person for the job.

What should you put in your CV?

If you want to promote your language skills on your CV (and you so do!), the most important thing is to be honest about your level of knowledge and comfort in both languages. This will save you and the recruiter embarrassment and time, otherwise you will have to explain why your language skills aren’t up to standard. Imagine you end up in the job and have to give a presentation or write a report to important clients. Your language skills should handle that easily.

Handle terms like “bilingual” or “fluent” or even language scales such as the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) with care. Judge your language skills in terms of your confidence in working using that language. Here is a handy framework (see below), but we encourage you to put your own stamp on it by coming up with your own self-evaluation of your language skills!

• Limited working proficiency – able to satisfy routine social demands and able to handle limited work requirements but would need help in handling complicated tasks

• Professional working proficiency – can discuss a variety of topics with ease and almost complete understanding of what others are saying

• Full professional proficiency – can participate in all manners of conversations with ease and only rarely make grammatical mistakes

• Native proficiency – native speaker/ mother tongue.

Develop Your Skills

Language skills are one of those things that employers cannot develop in 90 days, so they are excited to find you as a candidate. Or if you're looking for a total linguist job

By the way - I want to help you guys with your language careers. Soon I'll be posting an exciting summary of all my jobs on my mailing list, but before that why not participate in my 50 Calls Project to talk about languages at work?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

10 of the best international work opportunities for everyone (Part 1)

Following Sally Holmwood's guest post about the great things that can come out of going on an international exchange, I started thinking about why such great opportunities should only be available to young people.

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Personally, I took the decision of moving to a different country 10 years ago, and haven't really regretted it. There are some things that you miss out on, being an expat. The jokes people make around here were different at first, and I still don't know most of the childhood memories and other cultural things they refer to. But at the same time, learning English and moving to England made my life into what it is now. I was 20 when I moved and never had a lot of baggage to carry around with me, but now that I do have work and a partner to worry about where does that leave time for living abroad?

Be more than "8 days on a beach"

I want adults to be daring and look beyond the obvious short vacations. Countries always become a lot more interesting when you stray from the tourist trail, but this can be scary. I spent five years travelling the world from China to Estonia as a recruitment officer, always aiming to chat to people and convince them to spend time abroad. As a foreigner, I've often met with people in their own houses or offices and worried that I wouldn't understand a word they say or that they'd just reject my interest. But the risk pays off. Sure, you could spend a week in a hotel in Barcelona and practice your Spanish at a market stall. But we are all perfectly equipped to start thinking of our destination as more than a resort. It's a complete world with political debates, economic strengths and people who go to work every day.

You won't lose your job

Professional exchanges and development opportunities beyond borders are not often advertised enough, but they are real career assets, to be used and sought out. Make sure you choose something relevant, and you'll benefit from it years later.

“I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to do it and not listening to the nagging voice of self doubt which tried to hold me back.”
— Sharon

Sharon McGuinness, a Provision Planning Officer for Lancashire Council, experienced just three weeks out of her comfort zone in Lancashire when she participated in a professional exchange with Vigo, Spain in 2012. You can read her full diary on the EU LAG website. She applied after reading about the exchange opportunities in a professional newsletter. Before going out there, Sharon says she found the idea "A little daunting but only because of my concerns at relative lack of Spanish language skills. At 3 weeks it was only a week longer than an average fortnight's holiday though so I figured the potential adventure outweighed the risk of it being really difficult or boring!" Having completed the exchange, she says that it taught her not better Spanish, but also self-reliance and confidence.

Top 5 International Work Opportunities

I have been researching many different schemes for spending time working or developing yourself abroad for this article and admittedly it was difficult for me to find many general schemes for anyone. On the other hand, it is so encouraging to find out just how much encouragement and financial support is available for most professionals in their own field.

Good places to look for information are with big international organisations or associations (like the European Union or United Nations), cultural institutes (Goethe Institut or Confucius Institute for example) and with professional associations in your own field. But for now, sit back and let these cool ideas inspire you.

EU Funding

The EU funds an awful lot of stuff and also collaborates with countries such as USA, China, Korea and Japan. Their funding grants available for language-related activities alone are mind-blowing. Students, teachers, professionals, anyone in the labour market can find the right programme and funding to spend a bit of time abroad. You don't have to be in a member state, the EU considers many other countries like Iceland, Switzerland, Croatia and Russia. And you can also have any nationality. The opportunities are endless, so I will give you my favourites:

For entrepreneurs:Erasmus for Entrepreneurs

Starting your own business is massively exciting and also really hard, so how cool would it be to learn from a successful business leader, without the fixed ideas that exist in your own country? If you want to soak up as much learning as possible and make international contacts at the same time, this one is perfect. No age restriction, but you must have set up your own company in the last 3 years. 

For James Bond wannabes: Pericles - fight against fraud

The web information relating to this scheme really shows you why EU funding is so hard to find: the legal language and official documents are a bit confusing, but in essence this programme has the very cool job of making the international fight against fake money possible. Easiest way around the website is to look up the national agency in your own country and get in touch with them to find out what's on offer. It's mostly for those working in law enforcement, banks and areas like that.

For Jobseekers: Camps & TEFL

There are lots of language focused camps looking for staff members every summer. This ranges from the classic Camp America in the USA to English Teaching in Italy, there's so much to do everywhere in the world for anyone wanting to get involved in a camp. You may not find that this is the most immersive cultural and linguistic experience, but if you're hesitant this could be the first step to an international career.

And how could I write an article about international work without mentioning the TEFL? TEFL is an internationally recognised English teaching qualification that has allowed millions to use their knowledge of one language to travel the world. You'll need a good understanding of how language works. There are very many TEFL and CELTA qualification programmes out there and you can get a basic certificate in as little as one (intense) weekend, including the very well established i-to-i TEFL (they offer paid internships too!). Click on their ad for more information:

For helpers over 25s: UN Volunteering

What I like about UN Volunteering is that it is open to pretty much anyone from any country, and it is aimed at people aged over 25 in particular. You'll need at least 3 months and have to understand that you won't earn wages, but it's not self-funded either. The UN pays a living allowance and some other support to its volunteers. 

If volunteering is your thing, then I also recommend you contact an international charity like Amnesty International or Greenpeace.  But generally speaking, be careful about volunteering because so often the biggest difference you can make is at home.

For everyone: Twin and Sister Cities

Twinning has been going for hundreds of years, and it describes two cities, towns or villages in different countries acknowledging their similarities and and committing to building a relationship together. Twinning isn't the same in every place, but is often funded by local and national governments and of course the EU. Your town might not be doing much, but get in touch with the city hall and find out if there isn't an annual funded choir trip to anywhere. Just as an example: When I was 17, I got to spend a week on a coach trip with a local brass band, as they went to play concerts in Leicester and needed a translator. Twinning is unpredictable.

Related posts: 

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Guest Post: What's it like to go and study languages at university?

Today's article comes from Tom, who you guys will hopefully remember since he gave us an insider's perspective on the UK A-Level exams in German and French a few weeks ago. I love this article and what it stands for - the positive feelings, great benefits and excitement of going to university. Plus here is someone who is building on a love for languages which will last him all his life. Let's see how Tom hopes university will feel. 

A new chapter: off to university!

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After two very demanding years of preparing for the A-Level exams, I cannot believe that I have finally come to this point in my life, where I am off to university. I had always assumed that it was years away until I would get to that stage in my own life and I wouldn’t have to think about that just yet. It was in fact 6 years ago that my brother went to university! Now that the time is here, it’s a daunting but extremely exciting prospect. I’m leaving home seriously for the first time in my life, although I have the advantage of knowing what to expect thanks to those older in my family. 

A-Level results day now feels like it is far in the past, yet it was something that occurred very recently, only 2 or so weeks ago. Fortunately for me, I had no issues and I was successful in getting on to my course at my first choice university. Of course I am very pleased, and I look forward to commencing this new chapter in my life. As far as I am concerned, hard work does pay off! And all of the hours I put into doing extra work and revision definitely helped! 

A slight change-up? 

It will be tough and I will have to put in many hours but I know that the up and down battle will be so worth it at the end.

As mentioned in my previous post, it more or less felt natural and obvious for me to apply to study languages at university, but I wanted to do something different, a bit ‘out there’ and I simply wanted a change, so I decided to choose German and ab initio Russian (ab initio means completely from scratch). I had toyed with the idea of doing French and German but I thought that I could maintain and improve my French on my own now at this stage since I am still extremely fond of the French language and culture. For me, the French language and culture will always have a very special place in my heart as it is just so beautiful and it was the first language in which I could communicate with fluidity without having to constantly rack my brain for words or phrases.

Starting a new language will be a challenge, particularly since Russian is quite different from English. I am really looking forward to this challenge. It will be tough and I will have to put in many hours but I know that the up and down battle will be so worth it at the end when I hopefully come out speaking it well and fluently. But let’s wait and see, since I don’t know what the future holds in store for me yet!

Four years full of opportunity and one special year in particular

The highlight, as seems for many language undergraduates is the year abroad, living in one or more of the countries where the target language or languages are spoken. The opportunity to live abroad for a year is a great chance to not only sharpen up linguistic abilities but also get a deeper first hand on experience of the culture. Personally I really look forward to meeting new people from these countries. I hope to benefit as much as I can from what will be a once in a lifetime possibility to live abroad and not have to really worry about too much! By the end of my year abroad and eventually my degree, I would hope to be speaking very fluently. And in my opinion, it’s particularly important in language learning to master the intonation, rhythm and accent, so I hope that these would be of a very high level by the end of my degree.

At a time when the UK is crying out for people who are multilingual there seems to be no better time to be doing foreign languages at uni.

In addition to this, at a time when the UK is crying out for people who are multilingual there seems to be no better time to be doing foreign languages at uni. Not only will you be able to enhance your skills in so many different ways, but it seems the multilingual trait can take you wherever you want in life and whilst doing so, you will see life and the world in many beautiful different coloured spectrums and lights all just as beautiful as another.

To sum up, I feel so excited about this next part in my life, where I will be studying what I love and will be around like-minded individuals with great ideas. If you are off to university, I hope that your time there will be great and I am sure once everyone has finished there will be many awesome memories that will never leave us as we will one day remember our time as undergraduates!

Going to university like Tom?

Leave a comment, say hi and send your best wishes to Tom and all the other millions of students who are ready to start university life. 

The 4 most powerful language news items of winter 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! Once you've sat back and had a good meal, an internet session and a good browse of my recommended articles I say get away from the screen and do something fun! Why not play with the little ones, go for a winter bicycle ride or a new class at the gym?

But first, let's catch up on the best news articles about languages in recent months.

1) Under-25s most likely to regret not studying abroad says poll - BBC 1 November

At a time where employers are increasingly looking for candidates who are proud global citizens, this article is a worthwhile reminder that opening up to a new culture can bring you not just more social points, but also more money.

To me, language learning and teaching is where all of this starts. What easier way to educate with global awareness than to show people how important and how very possible it is to communicate with a foreigner?

CC Image by Dave Catchpole on Flickr

CC Image by Dave Catchpole on Flickr

2) 153 languages being spoken in Manchester, but census didn't show that says language professor - MEN 17 December

Linguistic diversity lives where you least expect it. 153 languages in Manchester alone. One of the key excuses preventing people from language learning is this feeling that there is little point, that the language won't be used. Well, with studies like these you're forced to think again. It is proof that you can find a speaker of your target language much nearer than you think.

3) Schools science project aims to boost foreign language take-up - BBC 21 December

Finally someone in Britain's education policy camp has woken up! The project introduced in this article gives me hope that future generations of learners will stop thinking of themselves as a "scientist", "linguist", "mathematician" or whatever, and instead just enjoy whatever they are learning. It's so crucial to encourage a good general education, and languages are not an isolated add-on. They're something to learn along with many other things like business techniques or geography. Learning language for more than just the holidays - that's what the future is made of!

4) Why is the government ripping into language learning? - New Statesman 13 September

"It’s complacent to think that the rest of the world will learn English and talk to us on our terms."

A great read celebrating the big asset that has developed in many international communities all over the world. As globalization and increased mobility of workers in the world makes our communities more international, the number of languages in one place is exploding. There are two ways to take this development: You can turn your back on it, stay intolerant and refuse to accept that the others are people like you. Or you can approach different people with curiosity and discover what a great asset their language, their food, their religion and way of life can bring into your life. Throw away travelling - you probably have to walk no more than a mile to meet a speaker of Gujarati or Yoruba! (In my town of less than 100 000, I know where to find speakers of Polish, Igbo, Bulgarian and Mandarin without even considering the big university around the corner.)