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Interview with Stewart Tunnicliff

Stewart Tunnicliff  
Introduction

Stewart Tunnicliff is an English language trainer, an educator and an entrepreneur. Today he is sharing some of his ideas with us.

You can contact Stew on our ESL forum.


Torsten:
Stewart, how long have you been living in Germany and why did you choose Leipzig as your work place?

Stewart:
I have been living in Germany for five years that have flown by like a jet plane. Leipzig kinda chose me. It is a long convoluted story that involves the US of A, heartbreak, a new start, voluntary work and some crazy foreigners. However let's just say that after a stop gap in Worcester England that moved on to Apolda (Thuringia) I came to what I call this village city. Leipzig I knew from visits and a film project that passed me by here as a camera man. My contract working in the one horse town of Aploda, with teenagers in school clubs and youth centres, was at an end. I came here with no job and lots of oomph. Sent many CVs out and took lots of work from "Das Schwarz Brett" (Uni small ads blackboard). After a slow start I did a CELTA course in Berlin, found my feet workwise in Leipzig, and since then the ball has not stopped rolling.

Torsten:
How would you describe the people here in the eastern part of Germany? In what way are they different from people in the UK?

Stewart:
Well I like the coffee and cake time, similar to the English tea time. The are quite friendly and have some unusual dialects. As I have a love of language I like this, despite the fact Saxony gets some heat from the rest of Germany for their accent, I have an affinity for it. In the UK an accent holds more respect I believe. There are some strange notions of foreigners here, and it still cracks me up that I ain't classed as one. Not sure the idea of a free labour market, selling your best qualities or service is fully understood. But Germany has a reputation of being a service Wüste (desert). Torsten, if I could be so cheeky as to change the parameters of the question I would compare East Germans to Midlanders or Northerners in England. Why? I think it may have some connections to Socialism. Simple things like eating home cooking with the family, appreciating nature and not being totally materialistic hold some sway here.

Torsten:
You have been doing a variety of jobs one of which has been teaching English. What is your definition of 'teaching' and why do you think English has become such an important language?

Stewart:
Well firstly I think teaching is about enabling and assisting, if I was to be metaphorical I would say a teacher is like the stabilisers you had on a bike as a kid when you were learning to ride. A teacher is like this support. The problem with definition is that people stick to one view or do not get the concept of modern teaching methods. English has become important for two main reasons one is America's position in the world, as well as globalisation. People travel more now or work with other nationalities and countries. Because of this cross over of previously separate factors a language was necessary.
I could try to pull the wool over peoples eyes and say it was something to do with the British Empire. But it is more modern and less unethical that that, innit ? Despite the negative view of America at the moment it can not be denied the Dollar has been a driving force behind the prevalence of English.

Torsten:
You have written a number of newspaper articles on effectiveness of English courses that are administered and funded by the German government. How would you describe the current system of further education and what should be done to improve it?

Stewart:
The funding is not an issue, if an individual sees the benefit of a course it should be seen as worth a personal investment. Then you can demand a professional and up-to-date system. The system has some good and bad points.The fact you can do applied studies or specialise your skills. However maybe there is not enough done to encourage the students to develop skills that will help them be ready for the national or international job market; CV, Resume (Lebenslauf) writing, interview training, marketing, soft skills, inter-cultural and self awareness. This does not have to be core to the studies, it could be an elective or a mentoring programme.

Torsten:
How exactly could such a mentoring programme work and how can make a person see the value of it?

Stewart:
A mentoring programme could work in two ways. Either through the guys in the latter years of their further education assisting the newbies. Otherwise setting up a careers, business, or employment advice centre. This does not have to be in the further education institute, but at least a few scattered across a city or ftp/online access to a centralised centre. Then lesson units/ modules could either be outsourced or competent advisers hired in. These solutions would mean changing more than just the further education but some state systems, such as the Agentur für Arbeit. (Federal Employment Agency). The students could be encouraged by good marketing and like they do sometimes in schools have a guest speaker who is an ex-student of the system or someone who has experienced similar systems. This could be a step too far for the system at present.

Torsten:
You also have written about the high unemployment rate in parts of Germany. How can new jobs be created and who should take the initiative?

Stewart:
I believe some jobs are there but the systems are not in place to get the unemployed to the jobs. The network needs to be improved. More of the initiative should be placed on the individual. I think a willingness to change business fields or take stop gap jobs or move city or country would help. However employers should also see the benefit of transference of skills and not just want the relevant qualification. I personally have worked in eight different fields, granted I could not be for example an Engineer and I am not referring to these high end professions. Also Germany could create more service sectors. As example an advisor or mediator between the Old Eastern Block countries and investors. The contact Germany has and has had with Russia is something that could be used as an asset.

Torsten:
You probably know quite a lot of people who are self-employed or even started their own business. Is there anyone you would like to mention here as an example of how new jobs can be created?

Stewart:
As we all know there are two very good SMB factors in Leipzig. I have worked with both and they can not be denied as having success stories. The first is the BIC building in Plagwitz, a lot of the companies there are very ambitious and have the managers are self-employed. The second started as such a few years ago, but now is a BIG player: Spreadshirt had the highest growth this year of new employees. I have contact with them and had the pleasure of training some. Being creative and business minded I like the concept as well. Both have some staff with exemplary or good English.

Torsten:
I agree with you -- Spreadshirt is a very dynamic and successful company and I'm sure they will continue to grow. What about you, have you ever thought about setting up your own business?

Stewart:
Of course, I am in the process of setting up two new projects. One as a partnership for textual conversion (translation,proof reading & collaboration) & the other as a joint venture for import-export support.

Torsten:
Could you please tell us more about your two ventures? How did you come up with the idea for them?

Stewart:
Both are on-line and using php as the working system. The first is International if possible and the other Euro-wide. They are with business partners that I have worked with for awhile and trust.

The first was due to two factors, one a lack of use of my writing skills and two working with a translator as her proof reader. This and Internet awareness lead me to realise in order to increase the catchment area of my work I needed to go into partnership. The niche exists and I am going to strike while the iron is hot.

The second was an approach from an ex-student. Again the niche exists, as there are many SMB that do not have the Internet, linguistic or cultural awareness skills to enter a new market despite their product or service.
Author: english-test.net