I grew up in Belgium, a country with 3 official languages. More specifically, I lived close to Brussels, where both French and Dutch are common. One of the advantages of growing up like this is that you learn, at a young age, how important it is to learn a second language. But you also realise how difficult it can be. We learn our second language (in my case French) early in school. And as I lived close to Brussels, I had many opportunities to practice: some of my neighbours spoke French, I had some friends who spoke mainly French, and in some shops the shop assistants spoke only French.
When I was young, I often practised my language skills in the grocery store: the labels of most products sold in Belgium show all the information in at least 2 of the 3 official languages. Usually all 3 languages, and sometimes also English, just to make sure everyone is covered. The funny thing is, you can see this in the Albert stores in Prague: some products (usually Albert or Delhaize brands) are the same as those sold in Belgium, and they display the description in Dutch, French and German. Going to the cinema is also an interesting experience in Belgium: movies shown in the original English will have 2 lines of subtitles: one in Dutch and one in French.
I worked in finance for a while before I decided to change my career to teaching English. I was working in a corporate environment where the communication mainly happened in English, but most people did not have English as their first language. It showed me very clearly how important it is to know English when working in business in Europe. While I enjoy the subject of economics and finance, I soon noticed the job was not right for me. The part of my work that I enjoyed most was helping my colleagues: training new colleagues, explaining how we work, but also sometimes helping colleagues with the best way to word something in English. I always enjoyed English more than most other languages, and I enjoy helping others understand the language and get better at it. This is why, when I decided to leave the corporate job, I wanted to try my hand at teaching English.
There are many things I enjoy about teaching: seeing excitement in an eager student who has just learnt something new, hearing a student correct themselves when they catch their own mistake, discussing captivating topics with my students and learning about their opinions, simply having a student thank me or tell me they enjoyed the lesson… But mostly, the fact that I am helping people understand the language better and develop their skills brings me a lot of joy (much more than my previous job, where I was simply generating more income for a multinational corporation). The challenging part is usually capturing the students’ attention, and making sure they actively participate in the learning process. Even when it was their own decision to take English lessons, the students might not be very involved if, for example, the theme of the lesson doesn’t really interest them. But creating dynamic lessons about various topics and trying to make even the grammar lessons interesting is a challenge I happily accept.