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The Language of Power

I'm an entrepreneur with my own business as an English skills instructor for adults, with a particular focus on adults learning English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) who are currently in professional or academic settings, but also native English speakers that have discovered that their primary or college English education is no longer sufficient to meet the demands of their careers in terms of effective written communication, public speaking, or presentational skills.

I have graduate degrees in psychology and social work and roughly 10+ years combined experience in those fields. This particular endeavor began about 3 years ago when I was laid off from a public health job and took a 1-year teaching contract in Japan. Not only did my work reaffirm the fact that I love to teach, but that my background in both how human brains learn AND how the quality of learning/education feeds back from the environment gives me a really unique skillset for the services I'm providing- I'm bringing something very different to the table than someone providing the same service with, say, simply a degree in education and experience teaching primary school children in mainstream educational settings.

Living in New York City, I have access to a potentially unlimited population of adults who find themselves here from non-English-speaking origins due to job relocation, pursuing higher education, or searching for opportunity. From past experience interacting with variously disenfranchised populations, it has always been very striking to me how strongly a person's ability to communicate effectively, in whatever the lingua franca of their environment, colors their perceived intelligence, education, professional competence- even their mental health. I've worked with (as one stark example) a bona fide nuclear physicist of Russian language origin who has worked as a taxi driver for more than a decade, rather than attempt to navigate the English-language-based process needed to legitimize his higher education and professional experience here in the United States.

In short, I consider myself very acutely aware of how dramatically disempowering poor language skills are, and conversely how immediately empowering they are to almost every area of personal advancement.

What I've enjoyed best about my work thus far is the tremendous diversity of my clients' needs and the challenges they bring to the table. I don't have the sort of mentality that tolerates boredom or understimulation well, and so I thrive on the variety of ways to apply the same skillset to different students. I've done everything from preparing an investment broker to deliver his first English-language (and first PowerPoint) presentation to his first American buyers to helping a Korean Catholic missionary priest edit, revise and curate a year's worth of homilies translated into English. Along with these sorts of clients, I also have a small, much-beloved base of people that simply meet with me every week to improve their ability to converse and speak understandably and well on the topics that interest them so the full extent of their personalities and intellect can shine through when they're out in the world.

For the past year and a half or so, I've been trying in a very vague, flailing sort of way to build a steady client base with an eye on growing my business in years to come. While I feel confident in my ability to deliver services, I'm not at all satisfied with my progress in either attracting clients or branding myself sufficiently to attract the kind of clients I want (and forming the lasting relationships that lead to word-of-mouth referrals that are the lifeblood of this sort of service model).

For me, this project is a chance to transform my work from a get-by cottage industry into a serious business that grows.

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