In school rooms from the desert altiplano to the far reaches of Patagonia, students across Chile are learning their “one-two-threes” and their “red-blue-yellows”. And throughout Santiago, a lively community of English-language institutes is working with university students and young professionals to polish off their grammar and conversational skills.
Now, two young Chilean entrepreneurs have taken another creative look at teaching and learning English in Chile, with a new initiative to bring free classes to students young and old with real-life English language.
“Both Martín and I decided to study English when we wanted to go abroad for continuing education. When we started looking for classes, we realized that the market is prohibitive for many people. The other option was books and online courses, but nothing convinced us,” said Nicolás Sánchez, founder and Chief Creative Officer of TalkChile.cl, in an interview with This is Chile.
Sánchez and Martín Andrade started the website TalkChile as a social project to expand access to English learning. The website features a variety of online radio shows led by native Engish speakers, with hour-long segments sprinkled throughout the day.
Between sets of music – with a decided bent towards British Rock n’ Roll – the TalkChile schedule features six English language programs throughout the day, with everything from talks prepared at the Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, to selected speeches from Ted Talks and children’s stories.
The importance of English in Chile
In the face of continuing growth with English-speaking trade partners and the vibrant entrepreneurial community created with the Start-Up Chile seed fund program, English in Chile is becoming ever more valuable.
“English is a necessity, it can’t be a luxury or a privilege,” says the website, which points out that 1 of 4 jobs in Chile today require English proficiency. And according to TalkChile, that figure could be as high as 3 of 4 jobs as soon as 2020.
Plans for the future
The freshly-launched TalkChile site plans to incorporate more social networking aspects as the project takes off, says Sánchez – “especially the ability to listen and discuss, which is permitted by social networks.”
Meanwhile, TalkChile is busy looking for a partner and sponsors to help keep the site free for English learners. And will there be a role to play for native English speakers? “Of course,” says Sánchez. “The idea is for it to be a space for everyone who wants to participate, and even better if they’re native English speakers.”
The daily schedule
Below, three highlights from recent shows. For the complete schedule, visit the website.
10 am – Education Matters: a special show prepared by the David Rockefeller Center at Harvard University. The most recent program, Education Matters #6, features a video of Professor David Weitz on “Science and Cooking.”
8 pm – Bedtime Stories: a featured children’s tale from Librivox, with classics like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Hansel and Gretel.”
10 pm – Spreading Ideas: a highlight of one of the famous “Ted Talks,” like Clay Shirky’s recent speech on “How Social Media Can Make History.”