As Course Directors we get to meet amazing teachers so I want to share with you an interview with the teacher of our Advanced English Conversation Course, Gaby Van Horn.
This post is in English so you can practice your reading skills. Try reading it out loud. 💚
Where were you born and where have you travelled or lived?
I was born in a suburb of Washington DC called Silver Spring, Maryland.
All my life, until recently I lived in the DC area which we call the DMV. I’ve only started traveling to other countries in the past few years. I’ve been to Denmark and Italy. I currently live in Germany with my husband who is from East Africa. Hopefully we can go there together someday.
Which is your favorite place in the world?
I’m a digital nomad. My favorite place is wherever I can be near my family AND have a good Wi-Fi signal! 😄
Which languages do you speak and how did you learn them?
I speak 5 languages. English and Spanish of course, two languages from East Africa- Amharic and Tigrinya and now I’m working on improving my German.
It’s funny how languages enter your life at different times.
I was born while my parents were doing volunteer work among the Latino community in Washington DC in the 90s and early 2000s. Most of my friends growing up were Salvadoran, Mexican and Guatemalan. I speak Spanglish. Tu sabes!
Then when I grew up, I decided to do volunteer work in the East African community and had to learn the two main languages. The DC area is the biggest Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora community in the world. There is always a lot of work to do!
I recently moved to Germany to continue to work with the East African diaspora along with my husband, who is a native Tigrinya speaker, in the Frankfurt, Germany area. Just like in America, many of the kids or second-generation people speak German better than their parents’ language. To better serve the whole community, I must improve my German.
It also helps me communicate when I have government office appointments now that I am an immigrant too.
How has speaking different languages helped you?
Every language is attached to a culture. When you speak another language well, people in that culture adopt you and share things with you that they wouldn’t tell an “outsider”.
Speaking multiple languages also creates more work opportunities because you can serve many demographics instead of just one.
The biggest thing that language has done for me is help me to get out of my comfort zone. If you had told me 10 years ago, ‘You will speak 5 languages, marry a foreigner and live 3,000 miles from your family.’, I would have laughed at you. Learning languages and volunteering helped me meet other people like me who despite our different backgrounds are all learning languages to help others.
I never would have met or been able to talk to my husband if I hadn’t visited Germany for the first time in 2017 and spoken Tigrinya well enough to have a conversation.
You never know where a language will lead you. It’s an exciting adventure. Don’t give up!
When you were little, what would you say you wanted to be?
I always wanted to be a businessperson. My sister and I used to play inventing and makeover salon. Sometimes we even had our dolls close down their business because they had no customers.
As the oldest of four, with two siblings a decade younger than I am, I’ve been a teacher for a long time.
So I’m glad to be able to combine both of those things into my work now.
How long have you been a teacher and what is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I have officially been a teacher since 2018. My favorite part is seeing the person grow little by little each week. They don’t even notice it. When they look back at how far they come, they are so proud of themselves.
Tell us about your course. How was your experience recording courses with Platzi?
My course covers the principles of English conversation skills. You can’t make rules for every situation but principles can be applied and changed to fit to any situation. We go over a lot of practical examples and even compare some skills to those seen in animals to help the student remember the key points.
I really enjoy working with Platzi. We were able to record remotely in record time because the team was so organized and professional. Companies like Platzi and DuoLingo, both cofounded by Latinos, are changing the education industry and creating e-learning options that everyone can access. I’m honored to be a part of it.
What are your top 3 tips to improve English speaking skills?
Learning a language well is like being a professional athlete. Legendary athletes do three things to perform well. They follow a tailored nutrition plan. They practice intentionally. And they analyze their progress.
If you want to improve your speaking performance skills, you must do the same thing.
1. Follow a tailored nutrition plan. - Plan out what resources you are going to use to practice each week to make sure you are focusing on improving your weak points. It could be pronunciation, grammar, using words that native speakers use, knowing what words to use when talking to an American versus a British person. It could be anything, just make sure it’s what YOU need to work on.
2. Practice intentionally. – Practice the skills you need for situations in real life. Talk with a friend or someone you trust who can give you feedback in a judgement free zone. That will help you to be ready when it’s time to deal with the real thing.
3. Analyze your progress.– Take notes every week. ‘This week I worked on this and I was able to finally do this.’ When you get discouraged, you can look at these notes and see how far you’ve come to motivate you to keep going.
We really enjoyed recording with Gaby and we are starting to plan the IELTS Preparation Course with her.
Check out this blogpost she wrote and her Advance English Conversation Course which will help you improve your communication skills.
What would you like to ask Gaby? Let me know in the comments section below.