#MeetTheMember: Louise Egan, English Language Teacher

Member news | June 26, 2020

In our latest #MeetTheMember feature, we interviewed Louise Egan, English Language Teacher and Founder of Soho Language Group.

Louise teaches foreign professionals and their families to speak and write English with confidence and fluency. They might need help with grammar, or want to speak with more natural vocabulary, or need to modify their native accent to be better understood. She helps prepare her students to give professional presentations, media interviews, and panel discussions. Her preparation often includes structuring these various forms of communication so they’ are direct and “American style.”

Keep reading to learn about Louise and her educational expertise...

A screenshot of a cell phoneDescription automatically generatedFACC: How are the unexpected events that have carried out in 2020 influencing your industry? Or how will they influence your industry for years to come?

The biggest changes made by the lockdown, quarantine, and Covid 19 era can be summed up in one word: Zoom. That’s not meant as a product placement for the video conferencing platform but more as a symbol of how my business changed almost overnight. For as much as my students and I all prefer being together in person, there is no denying that working remotely is a fine, next-best solution. Six months ago, my remote classes were the exception and working in homes and offices were the norm. Now, my office is my home and classrooms are other homes in the US and all over the world. This is a 21st century change that seems here to stay and I embrace it. 

FACC: What led you to teach foreign professionals, and their families, to speak and write English?

I love to learn; I love to teach; and I love to talk with people of all ages and especially those from other countries. Giving private lessons to foreign professionals is a natural fit for me, one that started years ago when I answered an ad that said, “teach English to a foreign executive” from a new site called “Craig’s List.” From that first student, a Human Resources director at a multinational, teaching opportunities grew from there. Working one-on-one allows the focus to be on whatever the student is most interested in, whether grammar, pronunciation, editing a presentation, or talking about world events.  There’s flexibility, structure, and energy – I love it! 

FACC: How do you teach confidence?  

Confidence is more a result that grows from learning than a subject matter itself. For example, I can teach someone grammar points, such as the difference between present perfect simple (I have done) and present perfect continuous (I have been doing); but confidence comes the moment a student actually uses this new knowledge in a conversation or meeting and thinks, “Cool! I did it.” Mastering English sounds and words -- even saying your name so it is understood -– can give students a warm feeling of accomplishment. 

FACC: If you could apply one adjective for each of the languages you can converse in (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German), what would they be? Feel free to share explain your reasoning for each descriptive word.

  • English – positive.  In teaching English, I have learned how our hyperbolic way of speaking and texting -- “amaaaaazing!” “Wowww!!!” “inCREDible!” etc., even when applied to ordinary things, is funny and a little strange to non-native speakers. But that’s our style: we open our mouths wide when we speak and are never afraid to go verbally overboard.  
  • French – elegant. English may be a Germanic language, but it gets a big linguistic boost in elegance from French.  Where English has everyday words like “work” and “job,” early French influence gave us “profession” and “career.” Our English “think” can be elevated to “reflect” or “contemplate” when we feel “pensive.” For English speakers, French pronunciation and grammar are difficult and humbling – perhaps that’s part of its mystique, like French fashion, literature, and cinema. In fact, it’s hard to separate the language from the parts of its culture Americans have made our own, like food: from champagne to ratatouille, it’s hard to think of French without thinking of food – bistros, cafés, restaurants the words and concepts are all French imports. And macarons. In fact, French cuisine alone deserves 5 stars for enriching our English vocabulary, sharpening our palate, and giving us an appreciation for elegance. 
  • Spanish – warm.  Spanish is a welcoming language: starting with “Hola!” it’s relatively easy  for English speakers to pronounce and at least on a basic level, easy to learn. We know Spanish from music – from salsa, merengue, reggaeton, even tango. We can hear it on the radio, TV, and the “oprima 9” options on phone recordings.  There is chispa, or spark, to the language. I love how Spanish speakers can turn making diminutives into an art: in Venezuela, “poco” (“little”) can grow to “poquito” to “poquitico” to “poquituiquitico” making the idea of “teeny-tiny” longer than “humongous.” The language just makes me smile. 
  • Portuguese – melodic. I first heard Brazilian Portuguese from bossa nova records my parents played at home after a trip to Brazil. Later, I lived in Rio de Janeiro and experienced the sun-soul-samba spirit for two months and studied the language in college. The rhythm and intonation of Brazilian Portuguese make a simple “Are you going to the store?” sound musical. The language evolved its own unique spin on Latin that is both soft and nasal. For non-natives, the ão sound is difficult but so satisfying to get it right. And all those classic songs by Gilberto, Jobim, de Moraes and many others keep the language in my heart. 
  • German – robust. With its multi-syllabic compound words, 3 genders, 16 ways to say “the,” the tricks and turns of its phrasal verbs, and the particular way of sticking the verbs at the end of a sentence seemingly far from the subject, German is no walk in the park! Rather, it’s a verbal hike in the mountains – at times a breathless, uphill climb and other times a lovely stream. And the view from the end of a well-constructed sentence is ausgezeichnet. 

FACC: What is your best success story with a student?

Success, by any measure, would be the 65-year-old Brazilian who applied time management, motivation, and creativity to learning English, from zero to conversant in the final 9 months of his 3-year expatriation. He went through three grammar textbooks, a college prep manual, and discovered Ted Talks – he even tried to transcribe a talk about “string theory.” By the end of his stay, he was speaking English with all of his bilingual colleagues. This was truly a success story – his success. This experience set a new standard for me; I learned how much can be mastered in a short time and that there is no age limit to learning. 

FACC: Tell us why you decided to join the FACC-NY community!

The FACC offers new worlds to be discovered and people to meet. I’d like to expand my horizons by meeting people and learning about companies I am not yet familiar with. With all that, I hope to find fresh opportunities, and untapped ways to enhance my skills and experience.  

Interested in connecting with Louise? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send her a message.