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The Challenge of Starting a Business

Posted by admin on Feb 11, 2011 in Misc. Challenges |

Back in the fall, my plans were derailed by a number of visa issues in Europe. This pushed me in several new directions as I looked for employment options. I have recently accepted an internship in London with a small consulting company and am very excited to be working for them this summer. But I have also started a new business that answers at last the question: what could I, a medievalist, offer the world?

This was the big question. What skills do I have of value to other people? The easiest answer was my gift with languages, but there was a slight glitch: I don’t speak Arabic, fluent Mandarin, or Pashto. Most of the languages I know are dead or not widely spoken. There is no great need for these languages from an employment perspective. It seemed my greatest asset was likewise useless.

But as I wrestled with this problem and had (sometimes heated) discussions with my family and friends, it at last became clear that my ability to learn languages was itself a skill. Sure, I may not yet speak the languages most sought after by military and business companies, but I can learn a language about as quickly as one can. And that skill is not something I was born with—it’s something I learned through studying linguistics and more than 20 languages.

So I’ve started Linguisticator, a service designed to teach people how to learn languages. There are tons of language resources out there, but more and more these resources seek to avoid central issues of language’s inherent complexities. A lot of language resources have little faith in a customer’s intelligence, I feel. The result is that people study a language for years only to reach a mediocre level at best. Language is a complex…organism, shall we say? But if it is broken down into its component parts, its complexity resolves into a wonderful clarity. That’s what my courses are designed to do.

Problem solved, right? Not exactly. I have a more or less unique product—the only comparable course I’ve seen is one offered for the US military—but how to get it out there? Many people have looked at my site and asked, “What languages are you teaching?” There is no precedent for such a course as this, so people assume I’m teaching specific languages. But I’m really teaching methods that will enable one to learn any language at record speed. Explaining this has been one challenge of communication.

The courses are the culmination of years of experience, and are something I wish had been available to me many years ago. Where do I go to tell people about this service? How do I get people to try something new? It’s a challenge, and I know it will take time. I struggle with impatience, I struggle with the risk of starting something so new. Yet I’ve had a ton of fun putting it all together. I like my website design and my new business cards are pretty flair; and nothing has been more fun than writing the actual courses. I’ve solidified the method for myself, and at the very least, I now have a more articulated process for tackling new languages myself.

Linguisticator will take time, patience, and a lot of work to build. It’s a larger challenge than many of the others I’ve worked on, but it’s a labor of love and I can only look forward to the fruit it will yield as I share one of my greatest passions with other people interested in language.

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