At just seven years old, German-born Marike Korn was already an English language teacher. It started small, helping her parents learn how to read English in their family living room, and later as a teenager, teaching her friends.
Since then, Korn has taken teaching to a whole new level. She’s the founder and sole coach of LinguaLink DC, a company that teaches English. Professionals from all over the world who find themselves in DC come to Korn, who speaks three languages and has a working knowledge of four others, in order to improve their English skills in their field of work.
But Korn’s teaching methods are not your average language lesson. For every new student that comes along, Korn customizes English lessons that are unique to the individual, strongly believing that no two people learn exactly the same way.
“I just firmly believe, especially when it comes to learning, that every single person learns differently,” Korn says. “We have different backgrounds, approaches and interests, and our first language also has an effect on how we learn another language.”
And Korn’s seen it all. She’s taught English to people from almost every non-English speaking country in the world – everyone from refugees to doctors – including some who were not even literate in their own language.
More than just a trained English teacher, Korn also pursued American studies and received a master’s in political science, with a specialization in U.S. domestic and foreign policy and international relations. Needless to say, she knows as much about being American as those born and raised in the States.
“It’s the perfect package for what I do,” Korn says, as most of her students are diplomats and international professionals.
For some of us (like myself) who had to sit through Spanish class repeating after the teacher and learning grammar that seems impractical for a beginner, it can be difficult to understand how someone like Korn could learn and teach languages so easily. So what does Korn tell her students when learning a language feels like a chore?
“Visualize how beautiful your future will be with you achieving [your] goals.”
For example, she says, imagine ordering Chinese food in front of your partner and impressing them.
“As soon as you fall in love with a language, it’s so much easier to learn it. As soon as you start associating beautiful memories with it, then you kind of embrace it in a way. And as soon as you understand it’s not just a tool, it’s so much more fun.”
She also recommends getting a language app like Duolingo, at least for languages with easier grammar like Romance languages, and practicing at least 15 minutes a day.
“You have to be disciplined,” she says.
She also advises exposing yourself to the language as much as possible, like watching movies with subtitles or going to exhibits. She says ultimately, you need a teacher if you truly want to speak another language.
So how does one get a job like Korn’s? She says there is no easy answer as she has formed her company around her skill set, but having a degree in English as a second language is necessary. Who you are teaching also plays a part.
Korn says it is important to be able to keep up with the industry that your student is a part of, as often times these people are already at a high level of English and only need help with industry lingo. Lastly, she says having a passion for people is vital.
“A language is not just a tool, it’s so much more. It’s about building connections with other human beings; it’s about building bridges between countries and culture. It’s something that I think could make our world a better place – understanding each other.”
For more information about Korn and LinguaLink DC, visit here.