Miracle Fruit Story

Giving it all away

Why we provide free online material

Our Goal

Like many language school owners, I went into teaching English as a foreign language because I loved to travel and wanted to help others to do the same. It is exciting to engage with people and watch them acquire the skills to communicate with people whose first language they don't share.

However, I couldn't help but be aware that not everybody could participate.  So many of those who would benefit greatly from learning English, cannot afford to travel to the UK to learn with us, to benefit from our expertise.

At International House Bristol, we recognise that having English language skills improves the lives of all sorts of people and we wanted to extend those skills to as many people as possible. Of course, to do that as a non-commercial proposition required a great deal of commitment, hard work and selflessness on the part of our staff but then they are the best teachers in the world!

Our Miracle Fruit

As Atticus Finch says to his daughter Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

That is what we tried to do.  We imagined what it must be like for those who are desperate to acquire or improve English language skills but who lack entirely the means to buy courses either at home or abroad.  We imagined how isolating it must be for such people and how easy it would be for them to give up on their dreams of learning English and bettering their lives.

We may all accept that education is the key to escaping poverty but unless something is done to give people access to education, nothing is likely to change.

We may all accept that education is the key to escaping poverty but unless something is done to give people access to education, nothing is likely to change.

Ten years ago, we at International House Bristol decided it was time for us to do what we could to create a platform for everybody, regardless of economic standing, to use to improve their English.  We put ourselves in the skin of those people who wanted what we were selling but would never be in a position to buy it and we did something about it.

Free access for all

We created hours and hours of online study materials for general study and for exam practice and we put them on our website.  We made access entirely free, although we do ask people to register with us for most of the exercises.

You can explore the materials here, and if you'd like to have something similar for your school, we can license the material to you. See my Author Profile to get in touch with me any time.

There is no time limit for access to these exercises; students can use the materials for a week or for the rest of their lives. Students from all over the world are encouraged to sign up to do as many exercises as they wish and as often as they wish in order to improve their language skills.

Obviously, it was a huge commitment.  Teachers spent hours writing and checking materials and we had to pay to have the platform built to ensure that access was easy and universal. At International House Bristol, we create a lot of our own materials and personalise it for the people studying with us and this gave us a lot of raw material to work from.

Over the course of several months, the database grew and once we felt we had a sufficient body of work and the platform was ready, we launched it.

The uptake was immediate and ten years later, new users still join all the time.

The uptake was immediate and ten years later, new users still join all the time. Some names appear frequently -  this week has seen a lot from Douglas, Begona, Olha, Vladimir, Sariful, Ashima, Pol, Susanna - and it is rewarding to see their scores improve as they make progress. Every day, people sign in to do one or two or twenty exercises, to get better at English and to improve their lives and we at International House Bristol know that we made that happen.

It does nothing to improve our monetary bottom line but I think everybody here in Bristol would agree that it is worth it. What better ROI could there be than knowing you have made a positive difference in the world?

 

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Miracle Fruit

Native to West Africa, the miracle fruit got its name because it turns sour things sweet. Eureka! When eaten, the effect can last for about 30 minutes.

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