When it comes to global culture, Ray Blakney is a leading example. This former Peace Corps volunteer turned language business provider is ahead of the game regarding online access and education submersion. From first-hand experience, there are just some techniques that you clearly cannot acquire in the classroom. Together with his wife, Laura, The Blakney's bring the classroom to the world with LiveLingua.com.
As the name suggests, “live language" is an online vernacular platform based in Mexico, where it's “taught on the student's schedule." Unlike many zoom classrooms, the one-on-one video sessions offer something more valuable: “developing a friendship that often becomes more of a cultural guide than a typical teacher." They take pride in the fact that their school allows students to “integrate their lessons with their daily lives, rather than having to change their routine to go and study with a native tutor." Students of LiveLingua vary by country yet still get the full advantage of learning the essence of the language and speaking as a local. “It's impactful because that's something a brick-and-mortar school simply can't offer," Mr. Blakney affirms.
Well before COVID-19, LiveLingua saw the benefits of transforming their physical building into a digital service. During this transition Swine-Flu hit the nation, so they are no strangers to adaptation. “I'm a big nerd when it comes to 'the future of work' as a concept," Ray admits. “Remote work," like remote learning, “is the future for many industries. I'm consistently proud that we've been ahead of the curve on this." Seeing an opportunity in problematic situations has made LiveLingua.com the successful institution today.
“The most rewarding aspect is two-fold," Blakney states regarding operating an online resource. “It allows our staff and us the freedom to be locationally independent." This freedom also gives people the opportunity “to pursue the lifestyles they wish without being bound to a commute and office."
Secondly, “[We are] able to provide tangible value to our students and steady work to our staff by furthering the cause of language and cultural immersion." Further joining, “the more people experience other cultures, the more open they become to the world and its diversity." For Ray and Laura Blakney, this is their “contribution to making the world a better place."
While serving in the Peace Corps, Ray immediately became drawn to Mexico's vibrant expressionism, family values, and, of course, la comida. By coincidence, Laura was also serving in the Peace Corps as a Spanish teacher. As a student, Ray grew “smitten" during lessons, and the rest is history. Residing in Mexico and recruiting top native Spanish speakers helps to “highlight Latin American culture," becoming the forefront of their company. Not to mention the cost of residency in Mexico far outweighs that of any American city.
After much success of their proven process, the couple realized they wanted to offer courses in some of the world's most spoken tongues. Arabic is the newest alongside English, Italian, German, French, Japanese, and Korean. Now LiveLingua is on the podcast launchpad for Spanish students. Additionally, building a solid material resource foundation in the YouTube streaming channel. “We're always working on expanding our resources for Spanish learners," they affirm. “Our blog and newsletters continue to evolve, offering lots of practice exercises to help develop an understanding of the Spanish language."
As providers of Latin-American culture to global audiences, they hold a refined definition of what “global culture" signifies. “Among my travels," reminisces Ray, “I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the world, not just the landscapes. It's tear-jerking, and most people see only a tiny fraction of that. Everyone has something to offer. There's far more to gain by listening and coming together than by constantly working [individually]."
Moreover, language means many things to various individuals, yet Ray and Laura both agree it's a form of connection beyond the textbooks. “Language is the bond that ties a culture together and the rope that allows others to learn about it. It is inseparable from the people who speak it, and it is impossible to truly understand a person or their culture without understanding their language."