Have you seen our TOEFL preparation course? The Test of English as a Foreign Language, also known as TOEFL, is an international proficiency test that measures the abilities of non-native English speakers. It is usually taken by people who want to pursue further studies abroad but anyone who needs to demonstrate a certain level of mastery in this language should take a test like TOEFL.
I had the pleasure of recording this course with one of our amazing Platzi teachers, Jhon Carvajal, and in this blog post you will get to know him better.
Where were you born?
Where have you traveled or lived?
I have lived most of my life in Bucaramanga. I first traveled abroad in 2011 to be a Youth Colombian Ambassador in the USA, this being my first time in that beautiful country. I traveled to the USA again in 2018 to work as an International Camp Counselor in New York and then, in April 2019, I moved to Michigan, USA to work for an Integrated Education program there for a year. I love traveling so I have also visited several countries such as Panama, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria and France.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Nothing feels like home but now that I have been asked, I would say Prague. It is a magical city with astonishing architecture and history. Its colonial streets and mesmerizing castles really blew my mind. I also love New York. Last time I was there, I went sightseeing for 3 straight days by myself - I traveled alone so I could experience the real meaning of the word “freedom”, which I did and I encourage everyone to do at some point.
What languages do you speak and how did you learn them?
Spanish is my first language and English is my second. The way in which I learned English is actually quite funny. When I was in 5th grade (back in the day) I really struggled with English (believe it or not) so my parents signed me up for english lessons on Sundays (Yes, on Sundays). After some time, I realized I actually liked it and as I was showing progress, we moved our classes to Saturdays (it was still a challenge for a ten year old boy, but saturdays were better than sundays). I kept that study rhythm for a couple of years. Then, I studied in multiple institutions and I tried online lessons, private tutoring and self-learning. Traveling abroad really boosted my communication skills but, studying to be a teacher, was what really took my abilities to a new level.
How has speaking different languages helped you?
Speaking English changed my life. I have done so much with my English that I do not know where I would be if I had not taken this path. I have friends in every continent, I have gotten jobs that I never imagined I could get and I have discovered a whole new world of opportunities, cultures and experiences.
When you were little, what would you say you wanted to be?
In 2011 I traveled abroad for the first time. My English was good enough to survive but I knew I needed more. After I came back, I was granted some funds from the US Department of State to master my english and prepare for higher education; so I took a year off for that before enrolling into college. The year after, I started my University studies in Civil Engineering, and even though I did quite well, I soon realized I was not cut out for it.
After thinking about it for a while and discussing it with my parents, I knew what I wanted: I wanted to teach English. I looked for a new university and I got a job that suited my schedule needs. My motivation was high; I was doing what I really wanted. Hence why, I managed to conclude my studies a year earlier than expected and I was awarded an honors degree.
Several years later, I am still learning. As I pursue my Master’s Degree in Education, I constantly remind myself about the importance of chasing our dreams. I like sharing these experiences with my students so they know that the journey is not easy, but it is not impossible. The key is to know what you really want!
How long have you been a teacher and what is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I started to teach in 2013 (even before I graduated from University). I worked at a School of English back then and due to my English level, experience abroad and performance, I was given a promotion to a tutoring position. Since the day I gave my first class, I loved it.
I have had the chance to teach kids, high schoolers, young adults, adults and even teachers. What I like the most about it, is seeing my students achieve their goals. It is really rewarding when you help others improve their life quality. I still get messages from students I taught 2 or 3 years ago and that is truly motivating.
Tell us about your course and how was your experience recording in Platzi?
This course is an easy guide to understand the general structure of the TOEFL, the way in which our four communicative skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing) are assessed and the grading process. Preparation is key before taking any test. In this course, I share useful tips from my personal experience that I am sure will help students get a better score. I have prepared students for other International Tests such as IELTS and TOEIC and in this course, I also explain some of the differences between the TOEFL test and some other exams available in the market.
The recording process of this course really pushed out of my comfort zone. It was the first time I stood in front of the camera like that, but I must admit that I enjoyed every single moment. It took us several hours to get the perfect shots but I counted on the support of a fabulous team. I had so much fun and I am truly satisfied with the results. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
What are your top 3 tips to improve English speaking skills?
1. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: The more you talk, the more chances you will have to identify what you need to improve.
2. Listen and repeat: This is the way in which we acquired our first language. The listening-repeat process creates connections in your brain that help the consolidation of the new structures.
3. Don’t give up. Things look impossible until they are done. Learning a new language takes time but if you persevere, you will thrive.
Finally, invite your friends, family and peers to study with you. Good knowledge is worth spreading.
If you have any questions for Jhon please write them in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading. I wish you the best in all your academic endeavors. 💚