The Linguist

The Linguist 55,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 24 of 35 JUNE/JULY 2016 The Linguist 25 FEATURES idea to meet and make friends with local people. I think it's a problem most foreigners will identify with. The opportunities to meet locals were few, expensive and badly organised; I realised I had spotted a gap in the market – and a way to get out of the kitchen. In which countries do you operate? We are a non-location specific business and the first functioning business to be Bit-Incorporated. I trot around the globe from place to place, working on my laptop. We currently serve cities in Argentina, Peru, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, with a generous slosh of applications in process for 2016. Talk us through some of the initial challenges… It took three years to grow from eight to 500 people a week in Buenos Aires. I had to learn to do several job roles for which I had little experience. In order to get the word out I tried all kinds of things, many of which – such as flyering in the streets – proved ineffective. In early 2014, we started the international expansion through franchise. By that time, we had refined our promotional techniques, now actively seeking to foster relationships with language-related organisations, such as language schools, exchange programmes, universities, hostels and embassies, as well as organisations that promote specific cultures. are fairly low. Heard of Bitcoin? This is what allows us send our events global. What were your language learning experiences prior to Mundo Lingo? School did a great job of convincing me I was useless at language learning, and just about everything else. However, I was blessed with a healthy curiosity and initiative. At 21, I spoke only English. When I moved to Spain, I carried around a dictionary, tried to speak Spanish whenever possible, with sometimes crushing results, and generally let my curiosity guide the learning process. Not taking classes helped keep that curiosity alive for me. That's just my experience; I strongly encourage the academic route for those who can. However one learns a language, there's no doubt in my mind that it hugely improves our quality of life. What are your plans for the future? Our aim is to reach over 200 cities so that, wherever you land next, you can walk straight into a bar and start meeting locals – not just any locals, but locals who are waiting to meet you. Likewise, wherever you are in the world, we want to close the gap between you and the foreigners visiting or residing in your city, so you can practise any of the 200+ languages and dialects represented while helping people to integrate into local life. See for more information or to attend a Mundo Lingo event. While we do employ online social media, word-of-mouth serves us well. The biggest challenge we've faced in the expansion phase is learning to provide a consistent and quality service to franchisees, as well as learning to source and allocate start-up capital. We're profitable, but with no investors or loans we have had to be prudent with our finances. How has the initiative expanded? We expand organically. We don't advertise and we don't have an app yet. Locally, people often approach us at events asking how they can help. Internationally, people who have been to our events in one city go to another city and email us (probably from their kitchen) applying to open a franchise. We don't choose the cities, they choose us. All applicants go through vetting procedures, as do our hosting venues, in order to ensure a minimum quality of event in every city. How is Mundo Lingo funded and what financial challenges were involved in starting up this free service? On what would otherwise be a quiet weekday night we fill our host venues with around 200 people. This is the promotional service our franchisees (city managers) sell to their customers (the venues). Registering our brand in every country has been financially challenging, meaning that we often have to wait a long time before a new city returns a profit, but once this is done our skeleton costs

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