[Guest Post] Is it possible to live off languages? Meet Kirsty

Today I’m featuring a guest post by fellow blogger Kirsty from the UK. She runs the site English with Kirsty in which she helps English learners from around the world. Her post is about how she managed to make a career switch and live from teaching languages.

I will leave you with now with her interesting post.

How my interest in languages helped me to start my own business 

Hi! I’m Kirsty from the UK. I’m an online language teacher and I work with adults who want to improve their English.

I’ve always been interested in languages. They were my favourite subjects at school. It was like deciphering a code or finding out how the pieces of a puzzle fit together. Learning the rules meant learning which pieces would fit together. Learning new vocabulary meant that I had the right puzzle pieces for whatever ideas I was trying to communicate. I don’t know whether I liked these subjects because I was quite good at them, or I was good at them because I worked hardest on the things that I enjoyed, but I always looked forward to my French, German and English lessons. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten all my French now because I haven’t used it since my time at school, but I am still interested in English and German.

I then studied German at a higher level and I really enjoyed the language exchange that came as part of that programme. I spent two weeks with my exchange partner and her family in Germany. We had agreed to only speak English in England and German in Germany, but although I felt really nervous at times when I had to speak, particularly when I had to give a “thank-you” speech in front of the town mayor, I really enjoyed the challenge of having to express myself in another language.

What happened next?

I would have been interested in a career in languages, but the only options I saw open to me at the time were translating and interpreting. I didn’t want to do either of these things. Although it was fun interpreting for friends who otherwise would not have been able to communicate, I was also able to take part in those discussions. I knew that interpreting in the traditional sense doesn’t give you this opportunity. You are there to interpret the words of others and, while this is a worthwhile career choice and I’m sure quite rewarding, I wanted to have a voice. I do some occasional translation projects now, but it is not the main focus of my work.

I would also have been interested in a career in teaching, but I knew that I didn’t want to work in a school with children, so I gave up on the idea. It was only much later that I realised that adults also need to learn!

So, my career progressed and until three years ago I worked as a Communications Manager in national government. In many ways this was what I wanted. I wasn’t using my German, but every day I was working with the English language, helping people to communicate their message to different audiences, writing reports, newsletters, case studies, speeches, articles and web pages. But somehow I knew it wasn’t what I wanted – firstly because I wanted more one-to-one people contact and secondly because I wanted to find some way of incorporating my interest in German and language learning in general into my career.

In the meantime, I continued to learn German in my free time – reading books, communicating in German whenever I could, working in a voluntary online community and later taking another course to prove my language level, as I thought that this would be important if I applied for a job in a German company.

How I solved the problem

I started looking around to see what jobs were on offer that would allow me to use my communications manager skills and also my German, but the only bilingual jobs that I could find were in sales, and that wasn’t something that I wanted to do either. I think it’s much easier to find bilingual or multilingual jobs if you’re not living in the UK!

I had also developed an interest in Turkish. I spent time with my German and Turkish-speaking friends, helping them to learn English, while they helped me to learn their languages. I did it voluntarily and found it to be so rewarding that I started to wonder what it would be like if I could earn my living in this way.

There was only one way to find out, so I studied for online teaching qualifications in my spare time, passed them and began to build my website.

Three years later

My website today is quite different from the one that went online in 2012, but whatever big project you’re setting out on, you need to start somewhere. I now work as an English teacher, providing online training for adults who want to improve their business English. As I speak German, I do a lot of work with German-speaking customers, which gives me the opportunity to use my German every day, something that I dreamed about when I was working in my communications job.

My work isn’t limited to German speakers though. As the training takes place online, I can work with people anywhere in the world and this gives me the opportunity to communicate with some really interesting people and learn about other cultures.

How about you?

Maybe you are reading this blog because you are interested in learning languages. For some people, learning languages is a great hobby and it doesn’t need to be anything Else. Other people might like to use their second language at work, but they don’t know how.

There are so many opportunities out there – many more than the few that I thought of when I was planning my career. There are whole career fairs that are specifically for multilingual applicants. Interpreters can do a range of things, from interpreting for government ministers to working in hospitals. Translators can work on anything – from films to books to marketing materials. If that’s not for you, you can do so many other things, such as teaching, sales or marketing in international companies, providing customer services, working in the hospitality industry or any other company that either operates in a number of countries or serves an international market. If you have knowledge of a country’s language or culture, you are more likely to build relationships faster and know how best to get your message across in that language.

I’m not sorry that I gave up on my plan to work with languages at the beginning, because I gained a lot of useful experience throughout my journey as an employee. I use a lot of the lessons drawn from my work in communications as I plan my communications for my own business. I’ve also gathered a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work from my own experience as a language learner. In fact, I never really gave up on the idea of working with languages – I just shelved it for a while.

Maybe there’s a way that you can incorporate language learning into your current or your dream job, without having to take a specific job in the language industry. Maybe you’re already working with languages – either in your free time or at work. It would be great to hear your story too!

Find out more or get in touch

I’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to find out more about me or to get in touch, you can visit my website:

http://englishwithkirsty.com

I also have a weekly podcast for English learners. It’s called “English with Kirsty” and you can find it on my website, on iTunes or Stitcher.