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Running a business and motherhood: an interview with co-owner, Victoria Johnston

Welcome back to The English Room! You’ve already celebrated your first year of being a mum! So what’s it like running your own business and raising kids? 

I very much enjoyed the year with my twins at home (even though I have never been fully away), but I could also feel it was time for me to come back to work full time. I missed my colleagues and the clients. Having your own business and children gives you a lot of freedom but it also means you can never fully switch off.

How has your role changed since coming back from maternity leave?

I would say two main things have changed. I don’t teach much at the moment as I need to be more flexible picking up William and Stella from nursery. I mainly work in the office organising courses, answering emails and doing the bookkeeping. The second thing is that I am only at The English Room from 8am – 3.30pm which also means I don’t see our students who are here in the evenings, which is a shame. It certainly is a challenge balancing these two roles: motherhood and running a business.

The English Room has been open for business for more than 7 years now – what have been the most memorable English Room moments for you?

There are so many nice things that have happened in the past seven years, meeting interesting people of all backgrounds, but four main events stick in my mind:

  1. The opening of The English Room in 2010 with  just a handful of students and an untested concept. We celebrated in a half finished building.
  2. Winning the „IHK Gründerpreis“ in 2011.
  3. Our five year anniversary in June 2015 – a glorious day with colleagues, clients and family.
  4. And our annual staff Christmas parties, which is always a great way to show how much we appreciate the work our staff have put in.

What makes The English Room different to other language schools in Leipzig?

What I like about The English Room is that it doesn’t feel like a school. It’s a place where you should feel comfortable and relaxed. Added to that, we are a small, hand-picked team of professionals with the same goal. We all care what happens in the classroom.

What’s been the most surprising thing about running your own business? What advice would you give to people who want to start their own company in Leipzig?

I thought it would be challenging to work with my husband but we each have our strengths and complement each other well. To anybody starting a company my advice would be don’t underestimate the amount of bureaucracy involved and the importance of understanding the bones of your business.

How do you switch off from your busy schedule?

I attend a weekly yoga class with Tom Berghoff. This is my must-go-to appointment! After every session I feel totally relaxed and have zero back problems. At weekends I spend time with family and friends at our weekend cabin near Naumburg. The view is amazing overlooking vineyards and the river Saale.

5 easy ways to improve your English in 2018!

Apart from coming to regular English classes at The English Room, what else can you do outside English class to improve your English? This is a question that I often get asked by my students, and here you can find my top 5 tips that are easy to adopt and will give you great results!

1. Use Youtube videos or TED Talks

Find Youtube videos or TED Talks on topics that really interest you. Maybe you love cooking? DIY hacks? Travel? Gaming? Philosophy?

Of course you can just watch the videos (remember to press ‘CC’ for subtitles) or have them on in the background whilst you do housework or cook dinner, but it also really pays to study them in more detail. Take a look at number 2!

2. Notice fixed phrases

Notice fixed phrases and practise them. Fixed phrases usually contain between 3 and 7 words and include items like: to be honest, in a moment, on the other hand.

Watching Youtube videos or TED Talks (with subtitles) are a great way of collecting these fixed phrases! Make a note of the phrases and try and use them in your next English class. If you watch videos on similar topics, words and phrases are often repeated, making them much more memorable.

3. Go to English speaking events in Leipzig

Surround yourself in English at one of Leipzig’s many English events. Check out the events pages on Leipzig Glocal – Leipzig’s insider blog and webzine in English. And don’t forget that The English Room hosts its very own pub quiz in English on the last Friday of every month.

4. Set your smartphone and social media accounts to English

A simple, but effective English-learning hack!

5. Keep a positive attitude

It’s worth keeping in mind that you don’t need to know EVERYTHING to feel or be fluent in English. Make a list of scenarios in which you want to be able to communicate. Then work on these until you can have fluent conversations about them.

Sprachkolumne „Der große Idiom Slam“

Sprachkolumne „Der denglische Patient“

Lass uns zu Potte kommen – let us come to the potty? Mit Redewendungen ist es nicht immer so einfach. Deshalb trifft sich Peter Littger heute mit Ian Johnston aus dem English Room in Leipzig zu einem besonderen Schlagabtausch: Dem „Redewendungen-Slam“.

Spiegel Online Video Idiom Slam

Besuch von Spiegel Online in The English Room

Link to Spiegel Online at The English Room Leipzig Video


The English Room und Peter Littger

Vor ein paar Wochen besuchte Autor Peter Littger den English Room für ein humorvolles Gespräch mit Ian über die Unterschiede zwischen Englisch und Deutsch und die bekannten „false friends“.

Viel Spaß beim Schauen.

Hier ist der Link zum Video:

Spiegel Online at The English Room