Last week I reviewed Espresso English, a website that provides self-study learners with a wide range of resources to improve their speaking, listening, vocabulary, and grammar. I was very impressed with the site, and thought it would be interesting to contact Espresso English founder Shayna Oliveira to have some more information. Shayna kindly agreed to answer my questions ...
ENGLISH BLOG: Can you tell us a bit about your background? You're from the US originally. How did you end up in Brazil?
SHAYNA: My interest in Brazil began with capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial arts and dance that I’ve practiced for over 10 years. I had traveled to Brazil several times to train with masters of the art and learn the language and culture, and on one of those trips, I met and married my Brazilian husband. I had received a CELTA certificate in the U.S., so once I was settled in Brazil it was pretty easy to find teaching work.
ENGLISH BLOG: What's it like teaching English in Brazil?
SHAYNA: Brazilians are wonderful to work with – they tend to be warm, personable, and enthusiastic about learning English. Native-speaking ESL teachers are in high demand, and it’s common for teachers to give both group classes at English schools and private lessons to individual students. The pay is so-so: enough to get by, but it’s not easy to put away extra savings. However, the quality of life – tropical climate, delicious food, a rich culture – can’t be beat.
ENGLISH BLOG: When did you start Espresso English, and what gave you the idea?
SHAYNA: I launched Espresso English in January 2012 after noticing that many of my students – who typically had demanding jobs as well as family and social commitments – missed or canceled 30-40% of their English classes. This really hindered their progress, and they often expressed frustration at not having enough time to study. That gave me the idea to launch a website with quick, easily understandable English lessons posted online and delivered by e-mail – so that even if students are extremely busy and only have 15 minutes of free time, they can get a daily “espresso shot” of English to continue learning and developing their skills.
ENGLISH BLOG: Do you create all the materials yourself, or do you have some help?
SHAYNA: I create all the materials myself, although I’ve gotten help from a voiceover artist in recording some dialogs.
ENGLISH BLOG: What percentage of your time is devoted to Espresso English?
SHAYNA: When the site first started, it was a side project that took about an hour a day to write each new post. Now I spend a total of about 20 hours a week creating new material, improving the existing material, and corresponding with students.
ENGLISH BLOG: What have you done to promote the site?
SHAYNA: Primarily Facebook and Google ads, as well as encouraging current visitors to share the lessons if they enjoy them.
ENGLISH BLOG: What sort of feedback have you got from users or other EFL teachers?
SHAYNA: Most of my readers are students who enjoy the clarity of the lessons and the fact that many of them are available in video, audio, and text forms. Last year, I focused quite a bit on grammar; several subscribers have requested more lessons on spoken English, listening, and vocabulary – as well as more advanced material – so I’ll be focusing on those areas going forward.
ENGLISH BLOG: You offer a lot of free materials on the site. What's the take-up like for the paid courses and ebooks?
SHAYNA: The take-up for the paid courses/e-books is small, but it’s enough to make it worthwhile. It’s great that even a small percentage of paying students can provide enough resources to fund the continuing development of both paid and free material.
ENGLISH BLOG: What are your future plans for the site?
SHAYNA: I plan to creating courses that help students with their major “pain points” in English. One of the first e-mails that new subscribers get includes the question, “What’s your biggest difficulty in learning English?” – I then create courses based on the most common answers. The next ones will likely focus on listening, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
ENGLISH BLOG: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
SHAYNA: Both my online and offline students cite listening as one of their biggest challenges – so I’d like to start an ESL podcast that focuses more on learning conversational English.
ENGLISH BLOG: Well, good luck with that; we look forward to seeing the results. And thank you for answering our questions.