Private instruction helps nurse to learn Spanish and earns Mónica Méndez Teacher of the Year honors.
Spanish teacher Mónica Méndez used to meet her students face-to-face by sitting across a table from them in a Guatemalan classroom. Now she meets them online using Speak Shop (http://www.speakshop.com) and Skype videoconferencing.
Since 2008, Speak Shop has enabled certified Spanish teachers like Mónica to teach more than 30,000 lessons online. Speak Shop’s teachers are Spanish instructors who operate their own micro-business teaching from a Spanish language immersion school, PROBIGUA (http://www.probigua.org), or from their homes. Students are able to use their personal computers to reserve 50-minute lessons that fit their schedules and then receive private instruction for about $10 an hour.
Mónica, the Speak Shop 2011 Spanish Teacher of the Year, is committed to individually helping her students learn Spanish and is an expert at customizing Spanish lessons. “Most of my students are adults and each has different interests to learn a language. Some of them need it for their work, others to travel and others because they just like it. I prepare the homework with the subjects they need to practice, or I look for readings that they would find valuable,” says Mónica. “I take the time to correct my students’ homework before class so that they can ask about their mistakes and work on them with me during the lesson. I don’t like to impose subjects they don’t want to practice, and I try to always make them feel comfortable during the lesson. I also constantly review the subjects that I notice are the most difficult for my students.”
Dorothy, one of Mónica’s students, uses Spanish in her job as a nurse and says, “Mónica’s knowledge and teaching style are superior. Her dedication is very impressive. I had not realized that she often custom-tailors my homework just for me! I am amazed at the amount of time she spends to ensure that her students learn the lesson properly. Homework is sent promptly after the lesson and corrected well before the lesson to ensure enough time to study the errors.”
Speak Shop Founder Clay Cooper says, “Mónica is a very hard worker and is very sincere about providing a wonderful experience for her students. All of our teachers provide personalized lesson plans for each and every lesson. It’s a testament to Mónica’s teaching skills that her students were so happy with her lessons that they wanted to nominate her for Teacher of the Year.”
“I feel honored to win Teacher of the Year 2011,” says Mónica, “I am grateful to my students for their comments which help me do a better job every day, always taking into account each of their needs. I am really fortunate to work as a Speak Shop teacher because it allows me to develop myself professionally using technology.”
About Speak Shop
Speak Shop was founded in 2004 to make it easy for everyone to take one-on-one personalized cross-cultural Spanish lessons and to generate economic opportunity for formerly underpaid professional teachers in developing countries. People around the world use Speak Shop to learn Spanish online via Skype. For more details visit http://www.speakshop.com.
Editor’s Note: Sam Wainwright is a Research Associate at the New America Foundation. This post is part of the Global Innovation Showcase created by the New America Foundation and the Global Public Square.
By Sam Wainwright – Special to CNN
New communications tools and behaviors are spurring innovation worldwide, revolutionizing finance, community, business, giving and government. Here are some fascinating examples:
Finance: Mobile phone technology is empowering individuals to directly exchange money through their cell phones, bypassing traditional banking institutions. Companies like Square and their headphone-jack card reader let anyone with a smart phone accept credit card payments.
Mobile banking has developed even faster and spread far wider around the world. In Kenya, M-PESA connects over 65% of households to mobile money services. Websites like Kiva.org turn individuals into micro-financiers, allowing them to make $25 loans to anyone in the world.
Community: P2P technology is also facilitating near-free global communication through technology like Voice over IP (VoIP), turning even niche marketplaces into global exchanges.
Start-ups like Speak Shop, a web-based marketplace of Latin America Spanish tutors, allow anyone, anywhere to brush up on their Español via Skype.
Alternative “mesh” Internet architectures are also emerging as challengers to traditional notions of centralized, institutional control over the web. When the Egyptian government attempted to shut down the country’s Internet last February, Egyptian hackers turned to mesh networking to bypass the blackout.
Business: People aren’t the only ones connecting in new ways. There are new direct company-to-person interactions, whether as simple as announcing deals on Twitter, or as complex as a Spiroxil’s system for detecting counterfeit prescription drugs in the developing world with a cellphone camera.
Companies are connecting with new workforces by crowdsourcing small tasks with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, or by partnering with not-for-profits like Samasource to build sustainable internet-based jobs for people in poverty.
Giving: Charities have also benefited. Direct giving through text messages became a major source of international philanthropy – especially disaster relief – following the Haitian earthquake last year. Meanwhile, sites like GlobalGiving connect individual donors to grassroots charity projects with unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability.
A free service called ChildCount+ uses text messaging to coordinate community-based health providers in Africa. Beside providing for the social good of improving the delivery of health care, ChildCount+ means more patients end up coming back for follow-up appointments.
Government: Lower barriers to communication are also allowing individuals to hold governments accountable in ways never before possible. Ushahidi maps have been revolutionary in increasing government transparency. The free and open-source software allows anyone to report location-tagged information, and has been tweaked to track everything from street violence in Kenya to infrastructure damage from the Haitian earthquake. Residents of D.C. even used it to track snow removal during 2010’s “snowmaggedon.”
Perhaps most strikingly, many of these new interactions begin with the ethos of “free” and seek out new ways to monetize innovation outside of traditional cash-for-goods-rendered transactions. For example, Ushahidi software generates revenue by offering set-up and hosting services.
As Chris Anderson noted in his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, “free” is “a word with an extraordinary ability to reset consumer psychology, create new markets, break old ones and make almost any product more attractive.”
Taken together, all these breakthroughs suggest that the truly innovative work in the global economy is increasingly divorced from traditional models of individual ownership and old boundaries of communication. Indeed, new forms of communication are leading the way.
Posted in Uncategorized |
Boomers and seniors have embraced learning Spanish online by videoconferencing with Spanish tutors in Guatemala. Speak Shop is responding by offering anyone 50 years or older a 50 percent membership discount.
Boomers and seniors learning to speak Spanish are seeing real advantages in working one-to-one with personal Spanish tutors via the Internet. These adult students love the convenience, personalized curriculum, and fun of conversing with a native Spanish speaker in Central America using online videoconferencing.
Students have used Speak Shop, a seven-year-old company, to take more than 20,000 lessons online from Spanish tutors in Guatemala. Using their personal computers, students reserve a 50-minute lesson that fits their schedule and then videoconference with their tutor using the free software application, Skype.
Carol Griffin, a 70-year-old student, said, “Before Speak Shop I tried group classes at our local community center and CDs to learn Spanish. I love Speak Shop because the one-to-one classes really focus on my level, interests, and needs. My tutor, Rebeca, is patient, encouraging, and always fun to work with.” Carol and her daughter, Margo, who also learns Spanish at Speak Shop, recently traveled to Guatemala to meet their tutors and be immersed in the Spanish-speaking culture. “It was incredible to meet Rebeca and Mayra,” said Margo who had never thought of going to Guatemala before taking Spanish lessons through Speak Shop, “They are wonderful people, and my mom and I are already talking about returning someday.”
Guatemala is a world-renowned destination for learning Spanish. Hundreds of Spanish immersion schools comprise one of the country’s primary tourism industries. Speak Shop tutors have been teaching Spanish for 10 to 25 years at these schools. In addition to teaching Spanish language skills, they are able to explain culture and customs from an insider’s perspective and can customize the lesson on any number of topics to match each student’s interests.
Speak Shop has seen a spike in boomer and senior students. This trend may be due in part to an interest in preventative health care. A 2010 study from the Rotman Research Institute and York University found that being bilingual may delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who spoke only one language.
Americans are finding it increasingly useful to be able to speak Spanish both at home and abroad. Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the United States and the second most common language spoken by native speakers in the world. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S. and 1 of every 6 Americans, about 50 million people, are Hispanic.
In Guatemala, Spanish tutoring is a seasonal business, and Speak Shop enables its tutors to work throughout the year. “Speak Shop is a blessing because I am able to work from home and better able to provide for my family,” said Claritza Morales, 2010 Speak Shop Tutor of the year.
From now until Mother’s Day (Sunday May 8th, 2011) Speak Shop is offering adults age 50 and older the Unlimited Monthly Membership for $19.99—a 50% discount off the regular monthly price of $39.99 (lessons purchased separately). Details are available at http://www.speakshop.com/seniors.
Speak Shop is using 21st century technology to re-establish the benefits of learning Spanish from a human instructor. Speak Shop is a Certified B Corporation founded in 2004 to increase access to cross-cultural foreign language education and to generate economic opportunity for people in developing countries. For more details watch a demonstration video: http://www.speakshop.com/01_demo
By Tessa Farnsworth
April 13th, 2011 11:36 AM
In this series social entrepreneurs discuss the importance of sharing their big idea and reaching out to others. From making business partners out of strangers to saving flooded headquarters, our contacts and future contacts routinely prove integral to every aspect of creating and running a social enterprise.
Speak Shop seeks to create inter-cultural dialog and understanding through language lessons. People use the service to take Spanish lessons with tutors in Guatemala one-on-one by webcam, and the founders hope to expand to other languages and countries.
Their business model makes tutors micro-business owners instead of seasonal teachers and gives the student a cultural and language experience without the overhead costs of travel.
Dowser: What’s something concrete and tangible you’ve learned in the last three months?
Cooper: You need to find at least one other person you can let your guard down with who really gets it. I’m lucky I have that with Clay who is not just a co-founder, but also my husband. But sometimes you need someone outside your organization or family. Most people do not want to hear about your problems, but other social entrepreneurs are usually pretty receptive, and that’s where I go first. I recently heard a venture capitalist say, ‘As an entrepreneur, you need to show your passion. When you ask people which Winnie-the-Pooh character they want to be, no one says Eeyore’ (the gloomy one). He has a point. But entrepreneurship is notoriously up and down, so it’s really important to know who will be there on your Eeyore days.
What is a mistake or mishap you’ve learned from?
One of the biggest mistakes we made early on was waiting to launch for fear of failing. When Speak Shop started out in 2004 we were very hesitant because no one had ever offered or heard of one-on-one Spanish tutoring by webcam, and we did not have the resources to prove that webcam-based tutoring would work. After unsuccessfully trying to get beta testers for several months, we just started marketing Speak Shop using Google Ads. People came. We were really excited, but still worried we might have launched too soon. I remember asking our first customer, Poppy: ‘Do you think you can learn Spanish this way?’ She was probably wondering: Why do you need to ask me, but she said, ‘Yes, absolutely!’ That was one of the best moments. We had a real customer who was excited and happy. I now notice that even huge companies like Twitter and Facebook fail some times. By temporarily suspending the drive for perfection, you can create something that really works and truly helps people. You aren’t an entrepreneur until you’ve made mistakes.
Posted in Uncategorized |
Speak Shop, a leading provider of Spanish lessons online with video chat, is pleased to announce Claritza Morales as the 2010 Tutor of the Year.
Speak Shop Spanish tutors provide one-on-one Spanish lessons to people all over the world using videoconferencing technology. The tutors are certified Spanish instructors who operate their own micro-business through Speak Shop.
Based in Antigua, Guatemala, Claritza has nearly 20 years of Spanish instruction experience and started teaching Spanish online at Speak Shop in 2007. She also teaches students at the local PROBIGUA Spanish Academy. Claritza has taught nearly 3000 hours of Spanish online and consistently receives outstanding feedback ratings from her students who often mention how fun, supportive and truly kind she is.
Spanish tutors in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, rarely have the opportunity to operate their own businesses and few can afford computers at home. In appreciation of Claritza’s kindness and support during a serious illness, one of her students sent her the money to buy a computer, which not only helped her with her business, but also gave her more time with her five children. This story was chronicled in the Omaha World-Herald http://press.speakshop.com/2009/03/31/friendship-grows-from-online-lessons/ .
Jean Wakefield, one of Claritza’s students, uses Spanish as a nurse and says, “Claritza teaches from the heart, with patience and humor. She encourages me to practice my Spanish with her and at my workplace, and she explains Spanish usage and Guatemalan culture. I have seen such great improvement in my Spanish since working with her. She is such a positive and inspiring teacher, and the hour-long tutoring session just flies by.”
“I am very excited and honored to win Tutor of the Year for 2010,” says Claritza, “I feel very fortunate to be working with Speak Shop because I am able to teach from home which allows me to spend more time with my family. I’m grateful to God, Speak Shop, PROBIGUA and each of my students who give me the opportunity for dignified work.”
Speak Shop CEO Clay Cooper says, “Claritza is not only a great Spanish tutor, she also has the unique ability to put just about anyone at ease – from the young to the young at heart. I was one of those people who would get nervous about making mistakes in Spanish, and I know what a difference it makes when you feel comfortable with your Spanish tutor. Claritza is a wonderful asset to the Speak Shop community.”
About Speak Shop
Speak Shop is a certified B Corp founded in 2004 to increase access to cross-cultural foreign language education and to generate economic opportunity for people in developing countries. People around the world use Speak Shop to learn Spanish online by webcam. For more details visit http://www.speakshop.com.
Posted in Uncategorized |