In this episode, Michael Waitze speaks to Robert Kawada, Managing Director of English Gang, a platform connecting English learners to qualified instructors digitally. Rob shares how this idea came about, when he was travelling through an airport. Spotting a traveller struggling to communicate with Thai-speaking officials, he offered to translate for them, but was surprised with the lack of English ability even at a location like the airport.
Building on the idea of classrooms, Rob built English Gang with some teachers as far as a few timezones away. He revealed how the staggered timezones worked in their favour, as teachers could teach outside of their usual working hours to supplement their income, while learners were able to study at a conducive hour in their home country.
Rob also shared how instead of following the traditional teaching structure, such as having grammar as one of the first learning points, they opted to start with building the confidence to speak. He believes the greatest barrier to learning a new language is the confidence to speak, even more so than having proper grammar and tense. As such, during the early stages, he and his teachers try to congratulate and encourage the students in speaking out, instilling the confidence critical for retaining motivation for future lessons.
In order to achieve this style of teaching, English Gang conducts rigorous interviews and demo classes to ensure they are fully satisfied that the teachers can attain their standards. As a result, they have only accepted around 6% of all their total applications. But putting it into perspective, they currently have a pool of millions of teachers available thanks to locations and distance not being a significant obstacle.
One of the things Rob and company learnt in the beginning, was that this form of teaching was not commonplace, and often students and teachers would forget their lesson schedule as it lacked some of the familiarities of a standard tuition class. Through these experiences, they modified their processes accordingly to better inform and remind students and teachers alike of their upcoming schedules.
This episode’s audio was expertly edited and this episode’s summary was written by Yong Yun Jing.