Today I am featuring an interview with Kendal from LingoHut.com, a site which teaches the very essential phrases and structures from several languages online (with a user-friendly interface, of course) and has been well used in several states in the US to train public servants, police officers, among other people involved in the public administration. Her life history is a good example of how a then-complicated language situation can empower you and lead you to better things in the future.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? How have your life experiences shaped your relationship with languages?
My name is Kendal Knetemann, I live in Colorado, USA. I have been married for 30 years and we have two children. Both my husband and I had to learn English when we moved to the USA in the early 80’s. My husband’s mother tongue is Dutch and my mother tongue is Spanish. The importance of language has been a part of our lives and family since we started our voyage together in the 80’s.
In the 90’s my husband and I had the opportunity to live in Dusseldorf Germany for one year, where I was yet exposed to another language. I again needed to learn Germany to assimilate to the new culture. In those days we learned through books, tape cassettes and practice with anyone that was willing to listen to my silly German. I can’t say I got fluent in German but I do understand it and speak at an elementary level. After this experience we came back to Colorado. I became a certified teacher and worked in the public schools system in Colorado for many years. During my career as an educator, I started a before and after school language program at our school, where I managed and supervised the French and German classes and I taught the Spanish classes. I loved running this program. It taught me if you give the love of language to a young child it would inspire them to continue their language learning journey.
After the positive experience teaching both adults and children in my community Spanish. A big change in my life happen in 2003 when my husband and I decided to become entrepreneurs and start our own online language business. The first thing we needed to do was build a platform that could teach Spanish, once completed. We developed the training material for different Public Safety Communities such as police, 9-1-1 dispatch, corrections, ect. We could not have done this without the help of professionals in that field, we spend countless hours with each one of them learning their needs. Lastly we needed to get the training recorded by professionals and onto our platform. With many startup struggles we finally launched SpanishOnPatrol.com, our first website in 2005. This endeavor has been a ride with many peaks and valleys just like life. The peaks have been fun but the valleys have been very challenging.
In 2008 we decided to start yet another website using the same platform but a different marketing model. We started the process over again with different professions such as educators, healthcare providers, bankers, relators, and more. LanguageAuthority.com was born.
Then in 2012 we decided to use the platform again, but this time to help refugees around the world help themselves assimilate into a new culture. So we put our thinking cap on and created an international website for people needing or desiring to learn a new language, which is when LingoHut.com became part of the World Wide Web. This website needed to be completely free to the user so again we tackled yet a new marketing model.
LingoHut’s unique platform focuses on basic conversational skills and word pronunciation. We do not focus on the fundamentals of language as there are many websites available that concentrate on this area. LingoHut provides short interactive lessons and quick easy games to provide the student the knowledge needed to build a large pool of language wisdom.
It turns out that LingoHut does not only help refugees it also helps tourist, teachers, students, shopkeepers, polyglots wanting to be expose yet to another language, and senior citizens hopping to delay dementia. This website has exceeded our expectations for sure.
How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?
It was a necessity. I had to leave at the young age of 14 alone my homeland overnight, being displaced because of a war from everything I knew even the language I spoke. That is how I got involve with language. Survival motived me. As I mentioned I left Nicaragua overnight by myself. My parents and siblings stayed back to protect our belonging, business and home. All to be lost a year and half later. These were very difficult scary times for me and my family.
Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?
You see the family I was placed with on my arrival to the USA had no experience with Spanish or dealing with a refugee. I had to learn English quickly, to fit in and understand what was going on around me. Of course once my family joined me we all had to assimilate plus my sibling also needed to learn English.
My big break in life was after a few years in America I found a terrific friend that came from the Netherlands. We practice English together a lot. We worked hard on not having an accent and making sure we articulated every word that came out of our mouths.
What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your tricks for that language?
I would like to learn how to speak Dutch fluently. I practice on LingoHut.com, record myself speaking and practice communicating with my husband. You see that friend I made from the Netherlands early in my journey in America, I married a few years later. I find that recording oneself and being your own critic is the best way to improve your language skills.
Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?
Of course, I would love to have the time to learn Chinese, Thai and Italian but at this time I have no time to focus on the time it takes to learn them. Someday maybe!!
Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?
Sure, I was at an international law enforcement conference in San Antonio Texas when I meet a policemen from Albania. We got talking and he was sharing that he had found a terrific website to learn English from his native language. I asked him which one, his response LingoHut.com. I just smiled. He asked if I had ever heard about it, I said yes. I told him that LH website was mine. He was so surprised, all he could do was hug me and say kind words about the site.
Do you want to connect with Kendal and ask her more questions? Feel free to check out her Facebook page or leave a comment.