Today’s guest on the blog is a veteran teacher in Paris who’s launched out on his own starting a company called Obbo Formation (formation in French meaning training or education). Edulang is proud to have Eric using English Addicts as a core teaching material, and I specifically wanted to have him on the blog to share his point-of-view on starting a language school business. So with much gratitude, I welcome Eric Schaftlein.
Hi Eric. Thanks for meeting up in Paris and taking the time to share a bit with the readers of a Journée in Language. I’m curious: how long have you been teaching in Paris?
Over 20 years now. And it certainly has changed quite a bit in that time (the teaching, not necessarily the city!).
Well, for one, the level of English has improved quite a bit, especially among the younger generations. Also, the last few years have certainly been tougher to find opportunities that offer a fair salary, which wasn’t the case 10 or 20 years ago.
What kind of populations do you teach?
Historically, I’ve had mostly corporate clients, and since I’ve started my own company, I’ve remained within the business context, but smaller companies as getting your foot in the door is much quicker and much easier as well; with bigger companies there’s a lot of competition and without a strong reference, the barriers are pretty high. I’ve found a nice niche within the hotel sector and have started to grow organically mainly through “word-of-mouth” and a bit of calling, brochures and other channels, but really referral is the strongest way of growing.
How do you work with your clients?
There’s a new buzz word in our sector “linguistic coach and I like that perspective. The slogan on my website is “Anyone can learn any language any time”, and I add that “time” is a key element. I mostly work once a week for 2 hours, or twice a week an hour an a half. It takes much more time than that to become skilled in a foreign language, which is why I push asynchronous learning strongly (and English Addicts).
What has been your greatest challenge starting out on your own?
Finding new clients.
What’s your favorite aspect of using English Addicts as a core learning material?
Three things: the high pedagogical quality of the lessons, the fact that there are new lessons every day, and also very important is that it’s so easy to use; I’ve used quite a few online applications and a simple interface and intuitive approach is priceless in the elearning world.
What do your clients think of English Addicts.
They’re blown away when I give them the demo lesson and are really enthusiastic to start using it to learn. Some really take off with it, and others need quite a bit of follow-through, which is actually pretty easy to stay on top of thanks to the student-tracking tools. Also, one of the first things I share with them is the “search tool” allowing them to find lessons that actually engage them personally, and from there if they don’t have time to do all ten lessons, maybe they do a few, or just listen to the audio in their car, or sometimes I even use the lessons in a traditional way in the classroom. Listen, tasks, discussion etc.
Lastly, Eric, what advice would you give to teacher thinking of going freelance or opening their own language school?
Invest early, and invest a lot of time. Finding new clients is the toughest part of the job, and it’s not necessarily a skill that comes easily to teachers (selling themselves). Stay focused on where you having positive results and work really hard on encouraging referrals and exploring the network that you’ve developed. There will probably be a time when you’re investing quite a bit of time without great pay-off, but that’s the nature of starting something new.
Born in the Netherlands, Eric Schaftlein moved to Canada for his university studies, starting off in Biology, then switching to Photography (a childhood passion). After working as a professional photographer for many years in Vancouver, Eric moved to France, and switched paths to teaching languages. He loves the sharing aspect of teaching and is convinced that learning a language is something everyone can excel at, and has been living that truth with his clients in Paris for 20 years now. His website, Obbo Formation, provides further details on his language school.