jadi kindred, pmp
English Business Coach & Founder of Accent Unique Inc.
1. I joined a class with 16 other people
I don’t know about you, but I was very shy to speak like a child learning how to form sentences for the first time in front of a room full of people. It would take me all of my courage to answer a question in class, only to have a weird look from the teacher and everyone stop and look at me….as my cheeks would turn red and all I wanted to do was hide.
For me, learning in an environment where I did not feel comfortable was not conducive for my improvement. After the months advanced and we were moved to higher levels where actual conversation was required, I simply froze, paralyzed to speak and never actually talking French.
I can learn as much French as possible, but if I don’t have an opportunity to dare to say sentences, speak up, ask questions, my time is not used to its fullest. That is exactly how I felt while being in a group of 16 other students.
When I founded my own private language school, I vowed to never create this same business model. Yes, the profits would be higher if I taught a group of 16 compared to 6, but my ultimate goal is to help my clients. I strongly believe that if someone doesn’t feel safe enough to make errors with either the teacher or students, then they will not feel safe enough to go out of their comfort zone to actually practice and learn. At Accent Unique Inc. we pride ourselves in creating small groups, usually 2-4 participants for maximum learning.
2. Learned Parisian French, instead of Quebecois French
I still don’t understand why tourists from around the world, such as in my class, came to Montreal to learn Parisian French? If they wanted to learn French from France, why didn’t they simply choose a school there?
For the six months while I was learning French, I learned the accents, vocabulary, and terms from France. When I was a beginner, I didn’t mind. To me, French is French. As I advanced, I soon learned that French is not just French. Like English, there is English from England and English from North America. Even in North America, spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary are often different between Americans and Canadians.
After a couple months, on my way home from class, I would listen to the Montreal radio stations in French. I quickly realized that I didn’t understand ANYTHING! How is this possible. Studying thirty hours a week for months, I couldn’t understand even simple words from the radio. I then understood, I need to learn Quebecois French in order to really live, work and integrate into society here.
I felt defeated, discouraged, and confused…. all the time. The struggle of commuting to the big city, feel shy and awkward all day, then coming home to feeling like my time was being wasted took a tole on me.
That is why when I founded Accent Unique, I vowed to find teachers who had North American English accents or Quebecois French accents. I would be doing my clients a disservice if they learned British English or Parisian French in Canada.
3. Received an "advanced" certificate even though I didn't speak
What does the word “advanced” actually mean? The Cambridge Dictionary defines advanced as being, “at a higher, more difficult level”. I could only speak for my own experience, but after 6 long months, I did not feel like I was speaking at a higher level. I still could not complete a full sentence correctly.
Some of you may be wondering how that’s possible, or that I must be terrible at learning languages. Yes, maybe I am not as fast at those were can speak 5 languages fluently, without accents or errors.
Others do think I pick up languages quickly. I graduated high school early and went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish. After 2 months of learning Spanish, I was at a higher level than 1 year of learning French, based on an online evaluation I took. With that being said, I thought I would learn French with as much as Spanish, but that was not my case.
Throughout the months, I saw students going through the courses, barely speaking one word, and receiving their certificate. I was curious what their certificate said and gasped the first time I saw the word “Advanced French”. How is that possible? I rarely heard that person actually speak in class and when I did, they definitely were struggling to complete their sentence. But they came to Montreal, found an expensive private language school to attend and wanted their certificate at the end.
Was that all they wanted? I didn’t care about a piece of paper. I needed to communicate with my fellow neighbours and one day colleagues. I imagined they would not have been impressed if I told them I completed an advanced French course but was not able to answer their basic questions.
So, when I started Accent Unique, I vowed to myself that my courses were not going to be focused on receiving a certificate at the end, but rather the process of learning, improving, and growing.
Therefore, all of my clients’ main goal is either personal or professional, not academic. The business professionals we work with don’t require a Certificate with their level on it, but instead request a Certificate of Completion. Yes, I happily offer this. They successfully put in time and effort and completed the course. Now, to me, that is the ultimate accomplishment!
4. Learned from teachers who were not passionate about teaching
I was learning French from a doctor who did not have his educational equivalent yet to be in medicine in Quebec.
Usually, my first question is to know if the teacher’s dream is to teach, since it is usually stemming from a passion. I was surprised and sad for my teacher that he was actually a doctor in his home country, but was not able to practice medicine in Canada, therefore he found this job.
It was not inspiring for me to learn French from someone simply reading out of a generic grammar book.
I wanted to see passion, enthusiasm, fun!
This teacher inspired me to form Accent Unique’s dynamic team of passionate, enthusiastic, and devoted teachers, who love their job so much they want to teach after their full-time teaching job and even on the weekend. Check out our teachers here.
5. I was in a language school geared for tourists
My reality was I needed French to survive. Find work, integrate into society, speak to my family-in-law and neighbours, read government websites to know where to go to get my Drivers' License, health card, etc.
Moving to Montreal’s South Shore from Yellowknife, where I lived for one year, this was not a vacation for me. I needed to integrate into society as quickly as possible. I was in a completely different mindset than my classmates who really just wanted to visit Montreal and come home with a Certificate.
That is why when I began Accent Unique, I was very clear on my niche market being fellow entrepreneurs and business professionals needing to improve their English for work, like me in French.
Courses are often centered around correcting reports, role play, telephone and email etiquette and asking lots of work-related questions to encourage the use of specific work terms, expressions, and new vocabulary.
6. The language school was geared for university students
I was an adult and not in the mindset to learn French to have a University credit.
Again, I had no credits to acquire, but I did have a job I wanted to find. My ultimate goal was not to pass some exam but to contribute to Quebec’s economy.
Accent Unique Inc. is not a huge public school. We are a private school, able to adapt and be flexible with our clients.
7. It was in person
My day looked like, driving my bike to the bus stop for 15 minutes (rain, heat wave or snow). Take a bus for 30 min. Walked another 10 min. By the time my class started at 8 am, I was exhausted. You see, I am an introvert and seeing hundreds of people in the morning physically and mentally drained me. Then I was expected to focus on learning French for the next 6 hours. And do the entire process again at the end of the day.
I simply dreaded my French classes and I can tell you that dread is not a conducive way to learn a second language.
Accent Unique has always been focused on creating a safe and comfortable environment for clients. Classes used to be offered directly on-site at their workplace. Now, our language school has moved to a 100% virtual cloud-based platform creating even more comfort. Learning in a comfortable setting changes everything and I believe greatly increases our capacity to listen, speak and absorb new information.
I suggest reading our blog article on “Everything you need to know about learning English in 2020.”