Meet Rhody-Ann Thorpe, a young Jamaican entrepreneur and founder of a language immersion organization within the Caribbean called Languesol International. Blogging about what Rhody-Ann is doing through Languesol was close to my heart simply because language immersion was a big part of how i upped my travel game. My first big solo trip in 2007 was me actually moving to Europe on a language immersion programme; I lived and worked in Orleans, France and really took advantage of both my long stay visa and my proximity to other countries that i had been dying to visit. I ended up hopping around different cities in France, Germany, Greece and Italy, and this truly jump-started my love affair with travelling. Though travelling is of course a huge plus to what Languesol offers, learning to speak a language the way natives do is the invaluably beneficial purpose of the programme.
Learning a new language of another country while living there is nothing short of an amazing and unforgettable experience, and Languesol’s immersion programme is tailored to structuring that experience in a secure, accessible and affordable way. The programme allows Jamaicans to sign up as either a host to accommodate someone from a non-English speaking country, or to do reverse immersion where they themselves would be hosted in another country to learn its language. In hopes that my Jamaican and fellow Caribbean Roamans would find this programme as interesting as I did, I interviewed Rhody-Ann, who actually happens to be a past language assistant as I was in France.
Q & A with Rhody-Ann:
What motivated you to create Languesol?
I decided to create Languesol after having worked for years with overseas entities as a travel consultant. These entities were located mostly in the Caribbean and I organized language stays for their clients primarily in North America. Realizing the need for a similar programme within the Caribbean, I thought it important for persons residing therein to be able to easily traverse the region for language and cultural immersion purposes.
Who exactly is your target audience?
Broadly speaking, individuals and organisations interested in undertaking a language stay in Jamaica or in the Caribbean.
How many countries does Languesol presently have exchange arrangements with, and by extension how many languages does your immersion programme cater to?
For the time-being, Languesol has existing relations with partners in three main countries in the French and Spanish Speaking Caribbean.
How important do you think travel experience and language skills are to professional development?
Generally, in this globalized era it is absolutely more marketable for an individual to be able to boast mastery or to express a certain level of ease in a foreign language, as you never know the types of clients you’ll be in contact with. It is also favourably perceived if one is able to say that they have spent some time in a country where the target language is spoken since without a doubt immersion is key to mastering a foreign language.
Tell us a little about one of your current projects?
Languesol is currently working on a project with its partners in the French Caribbean which will see university students applying to come to Jamaica to undertake short internships with a linguistic component. Additionally, Jamaican students would similarly apply to go overseas to gain professional experience and to improve their knowledge of the French language.
What industries in Jamaica would stand to benefit from Languesol?
Although language travel consultancy perhaps automatically links Languesol to the Tourism industry, we are aiming to place interns with wide-ranging skill-sets across the spectrum of industries including trade and commerce, Food, Banking and Finance, Media, Telecommunications etc. We also consider non-profit organisations for inclusion.
What are the requirements for becoming a host in your immersion programme and what is expected of them?
Languesol manages a network of host families in Jamaica and it is FREE to join. Availability is essential to being a host family since depending on the type of programme, the family would not only be providing housing but also food, excursions, airport transfers. It is expected of the family to basically adopt the visitor as part of their family for the duration of their stay which can be just a weekend, a week or some weeks. Safety is also of paramount importance, so the host family must provide a safe place of abode with acceptable living conditions. The families need not speak a foreign language as the guest will be required to speak the language of the receiving country.
Likewise, for those hoping to be guests abroad, what requirements and expectations apply?
For practical reasons it is always useful if one has basic knowledge of the foreign language before travelling to the host country. However, depending on their language level, language lessons may be provided and if travelling as a group, suitable accommodation and excursions can be arranged.
What is your vision for Languesol and its impact on Jamaica 10 years from now?
I want Languesol to be the bridge that connects Jamaica to the rest of the Caribbean and the World. Jamaica is known around the world for our athletes and our music, but after living overseas I realize that so many people don’t know where to locate us on a world map. Furthermore, the idea of travelling to Jamaica for some is very far-fetched because it is perhaps more convenient to go to an eastern-Caribbean country, to North America or the UK. Likewise, Jamaicans might find it easier to go to Europe rather than to the French Caribbean. Therefore, Languesol through its projects and activities hopes to further promote Jamaica’s image as a language travel destination. Languesol also hopes that our collaborative work with our French counterparts will create stronger diplomatic ties and therefore result in less travel restrictions where visas are concerned.
How economically accessible is your immersion programme to young Jamaicans?
For persons interested in what we call “reverse immersion”, in which Jamaicans travel to a French/Spanish speaking country, our partners have very attractive packages for individuals and groups which were conceived bearing in mind the challenging economic times we live in. Travel in itself is costly but with adequate planning and with the help of companies interested in investing in their employees’ professional development as well as local organisations interested in funding our initiatives, it can create a myriad of opportunities for Jamaicans.
What is the application process for becoming a host, as well as for becoming an exchange guest?
Persons in Jamaica may apply to be host families by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A pre-screening form will be filled out online by the candidate, an interview will be conducted and a site-visit will be done of the homes of the candidates.
For persons interested in doing a reverse-immersion, the application process may vary based on the programme they’re applying for, as some may entail a basic language test. However individuals may feel free to contact us via our website or by email. All are invited to follow Languesol’s social media platforms (@languesolintl) as well as to subscribe via our website to our newsletter to keep abreast of upcoming programmes and events.
For more details on Rhody-Ann and her language immersion programme Languesol, visit http://www.languesolinternational.com.