Taking the toil out of learning

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014

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When Charlie Lane returned to Christchurch from overseas travels earlier this year, she was unsure what to do with her life. The then 23 year old had plenty of options, with degrees in marketing and Spanish, and experience as an English teacher in South Korea. She wanted to make something out of her passion for languages and not end up sitting in an office all day.

Lane applied to be a Spanish teacher, and was offered a franchise for a language school rather than a job. She thought the concept could work in Christchurch.

"I knew that it was something that if it went well, it could make me very happy."

After showing the contract to family, lawyers and advisers, she decided to invest all her savings to jump on board.

"I thought that one day I'd set up my own business, but I didn't think it would be now. A lot of people thought I was crazy for doing it, but I'm really really glad that I did."

Lane ran her first holiday programme two weeks after she signed for the franchise in June.

"It was absolutely terrifying," she says.

Fun Languages does not have its own premises yet, but Lane and her team of teachers run group classes for children and adults in schools and community centres around the city.

"I like the idea of having my own school, but I also like that it is easier for my students if I come close to where they live."

She started with groups of children learning Mandarin and Spanish but is now launching intensive Spanish and French introductory courses for adults.

She also hopes to offer Italian, German and "whatever other languages people are interested in" soon.

Starting a business means hard work, Lane says.

"If I don't do the work, no one will."

On top of managing, marketing, and teaching for Fun Languages, Lane has to do other work "to keep the balance going so I can eat".

"I'm very excited about the prospect of a salary but, at the moment, the focus is on growth."

Lane developed a taste for languages while travelling around the world.

"It wasn't until I moved to Argentina at age 17, that I was able to learn Spanish. In total immersion, I had no choice."

Her own initial hurdles learning a language at school fuelled her desire to spread interactive, fun teaching methods.

"I want people to know that learning a language doesn't have to be hard. There are different styles of learning and different styles of teaching."

Fun Language's approach is not academic in style and does not revolve around exams. Students are not only learning a language but also a culture, Lane says. The concept helps children to start "learning without knowing that they are learning", she explains.

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"A lot of children find Spanish or Mandarin is like a secret language and it's exciting for them."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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