This week, Ian Jospehs, Founder and Chief Executive of Home Language International, reflects on the origins of the company and the home tuition model, challenges in record keeping and the benefits of learning at a teacher’s home..

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‘Many good things in life happen by accident. For me the language business was no exception. In 1957, as a very young man, I took on the bankrupt 100-room Regency Hotel from Ramsgate Council just when seaside trade was slumping because of cheap foreign holidays. Luckily for me some French students called in and asked where they could study the English language. I immediately offered to teach them quoting my Oxford degree without mentioning that it was in Jurisprudence.

The Regency School of English grew rapidly, the only UK language school in a large hotel. There was however, one drawback, common to all language schools: we found that after class was finished, students tended to go out with their friends to speak Italian, Spanish, French and anything but English. The students used to tell me that I should follow them around with a tin box and fine them for not speaking English: not the way perhaps to win many friends!

In 1979 a friend of mine lost his language school after he ran off with his bank manager’s wife (an unwise thing to do for any business man). He came to me and over a drink in the hotel bar said that he only had one student left and that he was teaching him in his own house on a full-board basis. This seemed a remarkably good concept that could well become very popular, so I set up Home English Lessons as an independent business giving my friend Peter a share. It took off rapidly, despite sceptics who said that it could never work.

I soon renamed it Home Language International when we applied the system to 20 other languages and 30 other countries. The advantage of individual lessons and no contact with persons speaking the students’ own languages proved irresistible and very soon many other educators followed my lead and started similar businesses which also operate with considerable success.

Things have progressed considerably since 1979 and new problems have arisen. The UK Border Authorities have naturally been concerned about bogus students from outside the EU entering the country in order to disappear illegally. They have however, confused quality of school with visa applications, granting visas only to those schools and home tuition centres that pass rigorous inspection. There is, however, no guarantee that the very best schools will keep track of their students more than lesser lights.

In my opinion, schools should keep records of any students who have failed to attend their courses and be legally responsible for notifying the home office if any students either do not turn up or disappear after a day or two. Accreditation is a fine thing and many of our agents will only deal with accredited organisations. Nevertheless, homestay organisations that offer informal conversation but do not offer tuition are disadvantaged, and for that reason I decided not to also set up a homestay /conversation organisation at more affordable prices. In my opinion, visas should be issued only to students attending organisations that keep good records with all absences duly reported.

Nothing, however, can detract from the advantage and time saving for any student learning a language in the teacher’s home. As the owner of both the Regency School in Monaco and Home Language International, I can compare the two and find that on average students who stay three months in the language school need stay only three weeks in the teacher’s home to make the same progress: great savings in both time and money.

Students of all ages from nine to 90 take advantage of this comparatively new system and the market is large enough for competitors to remain on friendly terms with each other. Workshops such as Alphe offer us all an ideal opportunity to socialise not only with agents but also our colleagues/competitors to exchange ideas and suggest improvements to what is after all a comparatively new but increasingly popular service for language students.’

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