At Babbel, our endgame is getting people to have conversations with other people, in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at. This round, we’re talking to two of our Babbel Live teachers, Erika Heim (she/her), a German teacher, and Stephane Ventura (he/him), a French teacher.
Thanks for sitting down with me Erika and Stephane! Tell me a bit about yourself. How long have you been a Babbel Live teacher for and what does a typical day look like for you?
Erika: Teaching classes with so many amazing, dedicated and interesting people from every corner and culture in the world is like an energy bomb for me. I have been offering Babbel Live classes since it launched in August 2020. I am teaching every level and am flexible with class timings, but prefer classes in the morning from 9am until early afternoon.
Usually the evening before, I am going through the presentations that I will be teaching the following day in order to know which grammar topic we will be focusing on.
I don’t need to prepare grammar, I just want to know which part of my grammar knowledge I have to activate for that class. I find breakout rooms very important for learners and learning a language, so instead of having a breakout session at the very end of a class when we might be running out of time, I try to plan it for an earlier time during class. Once I am starting a class and see the learners’ language requirement and class speed, I decide if an earlier breakout room is doable. Sometimes, I also read through the teacher notes for inspiration, but once I am starting a class, it creates itself and I get into the flow by interacting with the learners.
Stephane: Salut Ewa! I have been working with Babbel for almost a year and my routine changed a lot during this time. In the mornings, I used to check all the classes I would have during the day and read the PDF. Then, I would write down some little notes for myself specifically about the grammar and the personalized questions I can add according to the students. Now it’s a little more relaxing, because I know 99% of the classes by heart — I just have to check the PDF and my notes about it. After a class, if I feel I can make some improvements to it, I update my notes. Every class is a chance for me to observe my students, their reactions, the general comprehension and a chance to sharpen my teaching method.
Which languages do you speak?
Erika: I am originally from a small town at the German-Austrian border near Salzburg. I live in Bavaria, and have friends from Austria and Switzerland and know quite a lot about all the dialects spoken in the so-called DACH (German-speaking) countries. Whenever applicable, I am sharing that knowledge with German language learners. Moreover, I am a certified vocal actress, i.e. I know everything about German pronunciation so I try to share that info with learners when applicable.
I studied not only in Munich, but also in Paris and Italy and therefore speak French and Italian, and since Spanish is also a Latin language I can express myself in some Spanish as well. English feels like my second mother tongue. I am not only speaking English with my husband, but I’ve worked for many years on American cruise ships, as well as lived in the US and Sydney, Australia.
Stephane: I was born and raised in Paris, in a really multicultural neighborhood. My parents are originally from Portugal and arrived in Paris a couple years before I was born. Being raised in a bilingual environment was a big opportunity, because I could always switch from Portuguese to French, and really learned how to separate languages in my mind.
I learned English from middle school until I graduated from university. It was a long but quite easy way. I especially developed my English while traveling and using it as a bridge language with many people who I met on the road. I also learned Spanish at school for 8 years and came out super easily from the beginning. I guess speaking Portuguese and French was a big plus during this process. Although I really could say that I became fluent when I moved to Colombia and practiced in every aspect of life for 4 years.
I am now learning German, and it’s a totally different story. I have been using Babbel for a couple of months and already feel that I have improved a lot, even though I feel that I still have a long ways to go. Struggling as a student reminds me of the difficulties that our students can face sometimes, and that probably helps me to be a better teacher.
What were you doing before you joined us as a Babbel Live teacher?
Erika: I studied American Cultural History, Intercultural Communication and Organizational Psychology. So for many years, I was working in several positions on American cruise ships together with colleagues and passengers from all around the world. Since the beginning, I always stepped automatically into the passengers’ shoes in order to fulfill their requirements. Seeing things from different points of view, as well as having been a language learner myself, helps me immensely when it comes to meeting the learners’ desires and needs for learning a language.
After the cruise ship gig, I was working as an English-speaking tour guide, and I moved to Sydney, Australia, and then Los Angeles, before finally moving back to Germany. In Munich, I became a certified vocal actress, getting detailed knowledge about German pronunciation. At the same time, I also became a (Goethe-Institute) certified German language teacher and started giving online German language classes in 2015.
Stephane: I have been teaching French for 8 years in several countries and different types of schools. Before I joined Babbel Live as a French teacher, I was teaching a French class at a university in Colombia. I was in a little town one hour away from Bogota, the capital. Even though I love this place and this country, I was thinking about going to a new place to look for new opportunities. I already knew about Babbel the app, but then I got in contact with Babbel Live, which was the perfect fit for my needs. Plus, it allows me to work totally remotely. Since then, I have worked from several countries and am now based in Germany.
What has surprised you most so far during your time as a Babbel Live teacher?
Erika: First thing: That many people are, as they say, learning German because of its beauty. Second: How everyone, but especially people whose mother tongue comes from a completely different alphabet, learn and are able to express themselves in German.
Stephane: Seeing some of my motivated students improving so fast. Not a lot of learning methods help you to progress this fast.
What are some of your favorite parts of being a Babbel Live teacher?
Erika: Teaching Babbel language classes always fuels me with new energy. Communicating with people from different cultures, religions and languages is the essence of my life, plus it’s extremely inspiring and enriching since it is a mutual learning experience. Babbel Live gives me the opportunity to use my natural gift of connecting with people from all over the world. I love the schedule flexibility, the material given and the personal connection to Babbel and the teacher team, especially the additional benefits like having a teacher coffee hour as well as teacher workshops. Moreover, I am very grateful for being able to use the app as well as some live classes for myself. Whenever students tell me how far they have come by taking Babbel Live classes in order to learn and improve their German language skills, I am truly impressed with Babbel Live’s achievement of becoming a highly effective language learning tool.
Stephane: The best part of being a teacher at Babbel Live is to meet students from all over the world — you learn so much from each of them while they learn from me as well.
As a teacher I learned a lot thanks to the material provided by Babbel, but also from the different workshops that we can attend throughout the year. I feel that with Babbel, one can really improve all the aspects of their class thanks to all the good advice and training offered by our team.
Do you have any tips for those who are trying to learn a new language in the new year?
Erika: Enjoy the process of learning! Set up a daily learning and practice routine while having fun with it. Consistency will consequently expand your language skills. Have the courage to speak the language! No need to compare yourself to others — be easy on yourself and just have fun with it!
Stephane: Being patient is important in order to not lose motivation. Don’t compare yourself to other students and just keep the focus on the improvements you are making every day. Practice a little bit (or a lot) everyday, as regularity makes your mind really think in the new language. Personalize and adapt to your needs and to your preferred learning method. Don’t forget to have fun, relax and enjoy the process as much as the results. A bientôt sur Babbel!
Want to work with Erika and Stephane, and become a Babbel Live teacher? We are now looking for German and French teachers. Apply here!