Would you like to improve your English and have fun at the same time? Forget about boring coursebooks, we have something more interesting for you! Meet Nina, an English teacher in Brno, who has been providing English courses for women successfully for 15 years in a unique way. Do you want to know more about Nina and her project? Read further!
How long have you been teaching English?
Fifteen years and loving it! People often ask me how on Earth I have so much patience with people’s mistakes, with explaining grammar, with teaching the same vocabulary for so many years. But for me, this is something I would do even if I wasn’t paid for it. Helping people improve their English has become my true passion. I love supporting people; I love working hard on their goals and dreams with them and I just cannot stop when I see how much I help change other people’s lives for the better. It’s addictive! And besides I am not stuck in the same activities, I constantly develop and try new things, I become interested in new topics, I work with new people all the time. It’s never boring and that keeps me on my toes.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
No, I didn’t. And maybe that’s why I love it so much and why I ended up doing things very differently from others. Both of my parents were teachers at some point in their lives and to be honest, it was quite discouraging. But I loved languages, always travelled, and always had lots of international friends. Studying languages at the Faculty of Arts seemed like the right choice. I wanted to work in some international company afterwards, using my knowledge of foreign languages and intercultural communication, like many of your clients now do in Brno. But as fate would have it, despite having no formal training, I became an English teacher very soon after my graduation. And I completely fell in love with it, ran to the Trade Licensing Office to get my trade license within a month, took an expensive international methodology course, and started learning about running a successful freelance business.
How and when did you come up with Nina English courses?
After I realized I loved teaching English, unlike most language teachers, I wanted to be completely independent. I started teaching for a couple of schools but I never liked it much, I preferred working with my own clients because I was more free to teach them what I wanted and the pay was better. I started hiring business and marketing consultants to understand how to run the business myself and I fell in love with being my own boss.
However, the students weren’t progressing as much as I wanted and I lost my flow. I almost quit. After five years of teaching, I didn’t feel that teaching with coursebooks was for me. At that time my daughter was born so I took a natural break which led me to realize that I wanted to continue helping people with their English communication skills, just not in the old traditional way anymore. Here is a video from those days when I started my first courses in 2011, full of experiential learning, language coaching, and practising with lots of foreigners, offline and online. My brand was first called “EnglishBrno by Nina” and I cooperated quite intensively with the “English in Brno” meetings, the Toastmasters clubs and other international groups, organizing lots of pub nights, karaoke parties and fun events in many different pubs and clubs in Brno, including Industra, Bar, který neexistuje, Potrefená husa, Stará Pekárna, and Morgal.
I realized this was what I wanted. There I was, back in my flow, in my zone. I found myself in this new adventure and many others hopped on board with me. I have amazing colleagues and fantastic clients, I now run many different types of courses for different groups – both from the public and the B2B sector, and I feel fulfilled.
How many people are there in Nina English team?
That is very hard to say because the number of teachers working with me is always changing. New teachers are coming, some are leaving – usually because they leave Brno or start having kids. There are always around 10 to 15. It’s a small project, nothing huge. I have to take care of my daughter first. She is 9 now, and I am a single mom.
What kind of English courses do you have? What is the age range of the students?
Most of the courses I run are aimed at women who have had some formal education, have taken several English courses and tried hard to improve their English but they still feel like they cannot speak well, they are afraid, shy and often ashamed of their English communication skills. So I lead small groups of women from pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate levels where they can relax, open up, inspire each other and learn to build their self-confidence, discover a love for the English language and lose the fear of speaking with foreigners. We have both short weekend courses and longer 3- or 4-month courses which you attend once a week. Here you can see which courses we are opening this summer. My typical client is a 28 to 35-year-old woman who works or wants to work for an international company; she is active, travels, goes out and wants to socialize in English as well as build her career.
What do you usually do with your students during the courses?
We want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and well taken care of. So we do what women love best – we have lots of interesting conversations about their lives, their joys and worries; we speak about different ways to surround ourselves with English naturally and most importantly – we learn everything through experience. So in our courses we cook, we dance, we shop, we sing, we go on city tours, we speak with a lot of foreigners and we eat and drink while at it, so it all feels very natural. Many women say it’s like an active holiday. They come to relax and have fun and at the same time they dramatically improve their communication skills. I am very active on social media, showcasing what we do here. The Nina English Instagram account is probably the best place to go now to see the most recent videos and photos and student testimonials.
Who can attend your English courses?
Women of all ages, both Czech and international. We love having international students here because my team is also international and I see English as a bridge for us all to learn more about each other. We speak only English in our courses, very rarely Czech, and having international students from different countries is beneficial for everyone. The ladies from other countries can make new Czech friends among the women and vice versa. It’s a win-win!
We saw on your website there are English courses only for women. Why not for men?
I work with women because I am a woman myself and since this is much more about psychology and coaching than anything else, I attract them naturally. And it wasn’t entirely my idea, it developed organically. The women in my groups expressed their feelings of being more outspoken in women-only groups and they also wanted to do all the traditionally feminine activities with me, such as cooking and dancing, putting on make-up or shopping in Vaňkovka. At first, I wasn’t sure it would work but after 80 groups I can see what a great move it was. The women love it, they progress quickly and my job couldn’t be more rewarding.
Do you have courses in other cities in the Czech Republic?
I come from Brno and I have been organizing courses and events only in Brno, I am a proud local and primarily want to help local women. But for so many years people have been begging me to start something in Prague as well so here we go – I am starting courses in Prague with a close friend of mine who has very similar values and loves working with people on their English. We organized one weekend course so far and we are planning another one and hopefully more! It’s very exciting for me.
Do you keep in touch with your students after the end of the course?
Yes! I love to stay in touch with them. Our courses are short so the students often come back. And I also have a FB group Nina English group where I am in daily contact with everyone who wants to be active, I send out a newsletter once a month, I organize pub nights and picnics and many of my students have become my good friends. I feel very blessed to have such amazing people coming into my life. As I said, I am a single mom and it’s very important for me to have lots of sisters around who support me when I am down.
Can you give us some tips on how to improve English?
Absolutely! I have many many tips on my blog, which I have been filling with useful information for my students for many years. The article “10 Ways to Start Speaking English” could be the right place to go, or if you want to learn more about the popular activity nowadays – listening to podcasts – and do it effectively, read “How To Learn English With Podcasts”.
But most importantly – surround yourself with English as much as you can, naturally, in line with your interests and aspirations. Ideally mostly English spoken by native speakers, not your international colleagues only, they make a lot of mistakes and you repeat them after. Speak speak speak with people, we learn English in order to communicate with others, not to be able to fill out exercises in a book. If you want to listen to my theory behind all of what I do, watch my 5-minute video “How To Learn English Without Coursebooks.”
I want to say thank you, Nina, for the interesting interview! Your way of teaching is very inspiring and outstanding!
And if you, dear readers, would like to improve your English, get in touch with Nina and she will be more than happy to help!