My name is Elena Calavia, I am the Managing Director of Lingotot Drogheda & East Meath where we teach Spanish and French in schools and community settings to children between 2 and 13 years old (and their parents too!).
Originally from Spain, an Irish man swept me away many, many moons ago and the rest, as the saying goes, is history! I now live in Ireland, have a daughter who is 16 and speaks 3 languages fluently (+ 1 well) and a dog called Lola who is 18 months old and keeps the three of us on our toes, no matter what language we speak to her!
As a corporate lawyer for many years, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles and industries, getting to know how companies operate from the inside out, but always had a niggling desire to be at the other end of the table, having my own business, making a difference to others doing something that I loved.
Having had the incredible fortune to grow up in a multilingual household and attending the French Lycée in Madrid where all my education was conducted in French from age 4 until age 18, I know first hand how beneficial it is to learn a language from a young age as children are like sponges. In fact, in my case I learned how to read and write first in French and then in Spanish.
While learning French at school, I also learned a bit of English and needed to spruce it up, so I moved to Ireland for a year to improve it and then kept returning first to study in University College Dublin with an Erasmus grant, and then moved to Ireland permanently in 1998.
As I am also qualified to teach, I am thrilled to have returned to my first love of languages and plan to keep learning other ones, Irish being the first one on my list.
After a long search for new business opportunities, I came across Lingotot in a franchise trade online publication and it immediately caught my eye. I delved into the company in a lot of detail, its incredible founder Angela Sterling and the also fabulous Master Franchisor in Ireland, Sofia Colas, and I thought ‘I like what I am seeing’…two ladies with incredible backgrounds growing a business that brings together the languages I love and the challenge of owning my own business. I had to give it a go.
Once I had an opportunity to meet Sofia and have detailed conversations about the business, it struck me the enthusiasm she transmitted for the business, for Angela and the rest of the franchisees. Also, as Sofia had a solid corporate background behind her, I knew I was in great company to grow my business with her. I knew I was onto a winner… The more I learn the more I realise what a great quality product, ethos and company I am privileged to be part of.
One of the things that appealed to me was the feeling that I could contribute to a little person’s development and growth in a way I had not experienced in the past.
Education is so important and the effect of a good or a not so good teacher could have enormous consequences and impact in the development of a child, so I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to their education while having fun at the same time.
I launched the business on the first of November this year, so I am a newbie… but fully supported by Angela, Sofia and a group of franchisees who are super supportive at all times.
It has been a very rewarding experience and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
On my first day I taught four classes in a row as part of the Irish Government Modern Language Sampler Module initiative, which consists of subsidising 6 weeks of modern language tuition in primary schools to introduce the children not only the target language but very important concepts such as diversity.
I have also taught a group of 8-year-olds who for various reasons had had exposure to the Spanish language before and were very keen to improve and communicate better with others while having fun.
The adults are not left behind as we’ve started a lovely Spanish class in Bettystown too where we use conversation strategies and comprehensible input to bring adults, who may have already had some exposure to the target language that bit further using high frequency sentence structures that will be useful in everyday life.
I also have a toddler group who have taken to learning Spanish very quickly through our engaging age appropriate songs, crafts and other fun activities.
Finally, I have also launched our 2022 summer camps in Sonairte Ecology Centre in Laytown, County Meath combining nature, crafts, music, games and languages. I can’t wait!
As a new business owner starting out, every minute of the day is dedicated to getting exposure for my business in my target territory, researching new opportunities, meeting principals and teachers, building relationships with parents and partners and learning how to innovate, to make the classes every day more engaging and fun. So, it is pretty busy at the moment but would not change it for the world. I am constantly learning new skills which is something I love doing!
I enjoy the thrill of realising how much the children learn in one session, when they meet you on the way to class or in the street and they greet you with the words they have been learning or … even when they ask me my age… in Spanish, practicing what you have just taught them!!