Say yes!


A couple of months ago I was invited to speak online at a new event all about languages. My first thought was, heck no! That sounds utterly terrifying.

My second thought was, what would Karli Dendy do?

Karli co-runs designosaur and YEAH laser here in Brighton. We've known each other since university, when we watched enormous amounts of bad TV, and went to every club in the city in one year.

Now that we are grown-ups (apparently), I proofread her copy, and she gives me great business advice.

Anyway, I knew what Karli would say. Say yes

"I know the new mantra is to learn to say no to things, but I'm very much still in the say YES to everything phase, check your inbox every five minutes and reply to every strange direct message you get."
  - Karli on the designosaur blog

Isn't that awesome advice?

I've seen what amazing exciting opportunities Karli, and her boyfriend and business partner Jacques Keogh, have had by saying yes to things.

So I said yes.

And I did it! And it was great!

My talk was titled "The Classroom is Not Dead", and I spoke about my experiences setting up an offline language school, in an increasingly online world. 

This was the first ever Women in Language event, put together by Kerstin Cable, Lindsay Williams, and Shannon Kennedy. There were 25 speakers - all women - and the online event ran from International Women's Day on March 8th to (UK) Mother's Day on March 11th. 

The talks were divided up into four categories: Starting Language, Mastering Language, Living With Language, and Working With Language (that's me!)

I really enjoyed all the sessions I watched. There was a great mix of practical language learning advice, and more academic perspectives.

I missed a lot, but the talks are available online to ticket holders, so I can play catch-up over the next few weeks.

Speaking online was a new experience for me, but it was a lot of fun. I got some great questions in the Q&A too - about my experiences as a non-native teacher, and how to find a language class near you.

I also got to "meet" a bunch of new people online, and find other language teachers and learner to share experiences with. 

And to think I wanted to say "heck no". It's a good thing I didn't.

So...what are you going to say yes to next?


What is Community Interpreting and Why Does it Matter?


The dentist talked for a long time, in Japanese I didn't understand, pointing and waving his hands at the X-ray on the wall. I was completely lost.

After he'd talked for about five minutes, my Japanese boss translated for me: "He says you need to fix this tooth."

That's it? I thought. The dentist had been talking for ages. He can't possibly have only said "you need to fix this tooth".

The first year I was in Japan I had a lot of dental work done.

I broke a tooth (ouch!) and then it kept breaking. It was unpleasant.

I'm very grateful that my Japanese boss came to these appointments with me. And when he couldn't come, his mum would come with me. It was really kind of them.

But I usually didn't really understand what was going on. Imagine if I'd had access to a professional interpreter instead?

I often have interpreting on the brain. My "other job" (i.e. what I do when I don't have my Step Up Japanese hat on) is working in the offices of a community interpreting service here in Brighton.

So what is Community Interpreting?

Interpreting is listening to what is said in one language, and communicating the meaning in another language. And Community Interpreting (as opposed to conference interpreting, or interpreting in business meetings etc) basically exists to enable people to access public services.

Community Interpreters attend medical, legal and housing appointments with people who have limited English, helping them to understand fully what's going on.

Using a professional interpreter guarantees that interpreting is accurate and unbiased.

The interpreter's job is to remain impartial in a three-way conversation between the person with the language need (in Japan, that was me), and the professional they're seeing (the dentist).

Ah yes, my Japanese dentist.

After a while I could understand enough to attend the appointments by myself. Sometimes, I could tell the dentist was using simple language, to ensure I understood. That was kind of him.

But some medical messages are too important to be said in simple language.

So how would my experiences in Japan have been different if I'd had access to a professional interpreter?

It would have been empowering to make decisions about my medical care, without having to ask my boss's mum. I'm sure I would have felt a little less scared of the dentist waving his hands around, too.

If you'd like to learn more about Community Interpreting from a global perspective, you should check out Madeline Vadkerty's talk "Making the World a Better Place As an Interpreter" at next week's Women in Language event.

I'm really looking forward to hearing Madeline speak about her experiences as a Community Interpreter, helping asylum seekers and survivors of torture to rebuild their lives.

(I'll be speaking too - eek!)

Your ticket for Women in Language gets you access to the entire 4-day event with over 25 awesome women speaking. Click here to get your ticket before the event begins on Thursday 8th March.


I quit my day job! (sort of...)


Don't worry mum - I haven't quit my day job. Not as such. I recently went from full time to 3 days a week though.

It's great.

One of my students mentioned this week in passing that I must be busy, working full time somewhere else, and also running Japanese courses. I realised that I haven't told a lot of my students that I no longer have a full time day job.


I now work three days a week in the offices of a community interpreting agency, here in sunny Brighton.

And I teach Japanese three nights a week, to lovely people with language-related goals and dreams. I get to share in my students' successes and triumphs, and hopefully help them through the tough bits too.

Life is more balanced now that I don't work elsewhere full time. I'm less "bad-busy" and more "good-busy".

And I get to feel part of two things - the interpreting charity, and my own little language school. That sense of community is really important to me.

Do you have a day job, and do something else on the side? If you have more than one job, how do you balance your time? I'd love to know what tips you can share. Let me know in the comments 😃


P.S. If you'd like to know more about how I started Step Up Japanese (and how you can open a language school!) I'll be giving a talk at Women in Language, a brilliant new online event March 8th-11th. Click here to find out more.

P.P.S.  Calligraphers of Instagram will be back in March. Why not read Part 1Part 1-and-a-half, and Part 2 while you wait?