Janina Klimas is a teacher and student of languages. Feeling frustrating that she wasn’t able to find any good resources that reflected material including news, literature, photos, and being able to interact with people at the same time online, Klimas launched Real Life Language.
On Real Life Language, teachers can share and create lesson plans and share material. Also, the site allows users to connect via video so that a language teacher could potentially have a guest speaker from or about a particular culture. This also suggests the possibility of tutoring and one on one classes for students and teachers.
In addition, users can also record and send audio which proves helpful for listening and pronunciation skills. We had a chance to speak with Klimas and here’s what the linguaphile shared with us about her startup:
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Real Life Language came out of my beliefs about language teaching and learning. So many programs focus on mastering paradigms, and presenting material in numbered lessons. Authentic language from real life that is accessible to learners should be the core of language teaching and learning, and that is our philosophy.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
I go online and read e-mails and tweets. I love being a part of the conversation about language learning and teaching, and look forward to what new messages I have received from people all over the world.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
I started the company on my own and am the only permanent employee at this time. The team, however, is all over the globe. This is a truly international creation. Like many companies, a lot of work is done collaboratively. I work with native speakers from all over the world. Sometimes, we work face-to-face. In other cases, the work is done in the target language’s country. In the future, I would love to work more closely with schools and with more language teachers studying abroad to expand the content.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
There have been a lot of times that I have struggled, so it is hard to pick just one. There have been problems with technology, things that were contracted and didn’t turn out as we had agreed, the loss of almost all of my leisure time. The list goes on and on.
To start up something new and to really make your dreams come to life is not easy. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is. The fact is that I saw foreign languages presented in inaccessible ways. Either due to ineffective methods or charging more than people can afford, many people were excluded. I wanted to change that, and have a job where I made my own hours and realized my vision at the same time.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Yoga. Not only does it help burn up any anxiety that so much activity and stress produces, it gives so much more. In yoga, we use the term practice. There are many poses that seem too difficult at times. You continually practice certain poses, and they can go from seemingly impossible to completely accessible. The same can be said for your startup. Many new features come with the frustration of the figuring out how to make them come to life. Practicing yoga has taught me more patience and persistence. If you keep at something, you will get there with time and effort.
What’s your office environment like?
The environment is different people’s houses and apartments from all over the world, cafés, restaurants, the Internet, the street. The workspace reflects the name of the company.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I want people to plug in to Real Life Language and be able to have a downloadable file of anything they might want to say in all of the languages offered. I want schools to be able to provide students with daily opportunities to interact with native speakers of their target language, as well as other learners. I want to offer accessible, effective language input and practice opportunities for many people.
Who or what inspires you?
My leisure time, and believing that I am producing a good product. When I imagine being able to have a little more of both, it really energizes me.
How’d you fund this venture?
All my own money. I have had to cut back on many things to get it all done.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
I know that there are plenty of companies out there that can help fund a great idea. I honestly couldn’t tell you where to start, but there are lots of them. I would also remind people that your time is what is probably the most valuable. Hard work can get a person everywhere.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)
I would spend time exploring my many passions and interests. First, I would do more with the people I love. My friends and family have been patient, and I miss not spending more time with them. I would also like to do a yoga teacher training course. It involves many hours of practice. That is a lot of relaxation, and a lot of reminders that one must be persistent. I also love to read, and arrange flowers.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now?
I am really pleased with what has been created. That said, I won’t feel like a successful entrepeneur until I have reached a wider audience of language learners.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Pinterest. It is so inspirational to collect images of things that you love.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Instagram. I am just getting started. I love to share photos from all over the world on Facebook, and I can’t wait to use it to share more images from travels abroad.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
What’s the greatest thing about your company?
It can provide personalized, on-demand language learning.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
Facebook and Twitter. Also, here’s an exclusive Invitation to Real Life Languages.