Why I started ESpeak

Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that Spanish plays a big part in my life. I have been speaking Spanish for 10 years now, have always loved speaking the language and have found it relatively easy to grasp though I always strive to improve my knowledge of both the language and Hispanic culture. Now I have reached a higher level, I want to dedicate my time to transferring my knowledge onto those struggling with Spanish, or simply wanting to push themselves further. I’ve been teaching Spanish to several students for 3 years and I have developed an idea of what these students need in order to prevail.

I want to focus primarily on the speaking aspect of Spanish as I believe that it has been neglected, both at school as well as at university (this may surprise a lot of people: I only had 2 contact-hours of Spanish a week, which isn’t enough to excel in the language). I personally believe that speaking is by far the most important part of learning a language and the reason almost everybody wants to learn a language is to be able to interact with native speakers. This allows for travel and the ability to integrate and immerse more comfortably in Spanish-speaking countries. It seems pointless to learn a language unless you give precedence to speaking. Yes, reading and writing are helpful and valuable skills, but becoming a fluent speaker should be the goal of every language learner.

Hola mounted on wall

Finding the opportunity to speak Spanish when studying in the UK can be difficult, especially at GCSE or A Level when spoken practice is limited. Some companies provide language exchange evenings, but there are several negatives to these. Firstly, it can be intimidating to go and speak the language with strangers, especially if you have nobody to go with. Further, you have to travel to these events, which often puts people off. Another barrier is that you are expected to spend time speaking in your native language, which many students don’t want to do. This is the problem that also exists when finding an online language partner – many people just want to spend extended time practising their Spanish instead of having to teach also.

My goal is to provide a way for students to access fluent Spanish speakers without having to leave the comfort of their home, speakers who have years of experience studying Spanish and have spent significant time living in Spanish-speaking countries. Through ESpeak’s online Spanish speaking sessions, students will be able to improve without feeling shy or embarrassed and without having to travel. I hope that this will encourage the pursuit of mastery of the language and give them the confidence and competence to speak with native speakers.

Additionally, exams are important. Although I would love to just teach students to speak the language, I am not naïve to the fact that the current education system requires them to learn very specific things to pass. Therefore, I am also offering tutoring classes which are geared specifically to the school syllabus the student is studying and will facilitate them obtaining the top grades.

Finally, speaking from both experience and an extensive survey I carried out, I know that the majority of languages students find grammar to be the most difficult thing about learning a language. For this reason I will be providing grammar explanation sheets on the site which any student can access. Using my accumulated knowledge of the language over the years, I hope I can present these difficult concepts in a clear, digestible way that students will find useful.

Please have a look around the site and feel free to get in contact with me for anything Spanish related. I’ll be more than happy to help!

Shandon Williams