Ian George Mearns, English Teacher

From Scotland

After a long history of working in university student advising, nonprofit social and events planning, and community events supervision, Ian began teaching Business English in 2019. Originally from Scotland, he moved to Chile in 2019, where he earned his TEFL certificate and began teaching English. His professional experience inspired him to transition to teaching Business English so he could continue helping people and expanding his own professional skills.

What is your nationality and where do you currently reside?

I´m from Scotland in the UK and I have lived in Santiago de Chile since 2019.

What is your professional and educational background?

At university, I studied Politics at the undergraduate level at the University of Glasgow and a postgraduate degree in Policy at Strathclyde University.
In my 20s, I primarily worked in the public sector, firstly advising university students about student finance and then specifically assisting them with problems related to physical and mental health.

Next, I volunteered and then worked for an LGBTQIA Wellbeing charity in Scotland. My position in the charity was Community Development Worker and involved in planning and running a large Social and Events Programme in Glasgow. The project was aimed at helping vulnerable and socially isolated community members in safe environments.

As well as organizing and running events I also supervised community groups (for example Refugee Group, Autism Group, Language Exchanges, etc,), provided induction training, managed the project budget, prepared reports for project funders, and supported volunteers and sessional staff.

In 2019 I studied for a TEFL teaching certificate, moved to Chile, and have been teaching Business English with BridgeEngish since.

Which Bridge certifications or micro-credentials have you completed?

I have just registered to start the Games and Activities for the Online Classroom (Adults) Micro-credential.

How long have you been teaching with BridgeEnglish?

I have been teaching with BridgeEnglish since I moved to Chile in 2019.

How long have you been teaching languages and what inspired you to become a language teacher?

I have been formally teaching English for almost four years now and I love my job with BridgeEnglish. I was inspired to teach English in various ways.
Firstly, in my previous job for a charity, I gained a lot of experience planning and facilitating a wide range of community events and staff induction and training (particularly in equality and diversity). I adore working with and helping people and when it came to moving on, I wanted a new job that would allow me to use and expand on these skills.

I more specifically became interested in language teaching as one of the events I used to organize in Scotland was a regular Language Café. During the two-hour event, I would work with community members in Glasgow from all over the world in face-to-face events creating different activities for them to share their range of languages, cultures, and experiences with each other.

Additionally, although I have traveled a lot, until I moved to Chile I hadn’t lived abroad, so teaching English in Chile was a fantastic opportunity to experience living in a different country and become a Spanish Language learner myself.

Can you share a memorable experience or success story from your language teaching career?

Teaching provides me with many memorable experiences and I get great satisfaction from the many moments of success with my students. One of the most interesting is when students have to perform everyday tasks but in English. An example of this is when one of my students, who was experienced in giving presentations, was nervous about giving their first presentation in English. To help my student feel more comfortable and sound more fluent we took time to practice the presentation in English, discussed useful common phrases and vocabulary, and role-played a Question and Answer session. In the following class, they told me their manager had given them excellent feedback and they felt a lot more comfortable presenting in English.

How do you incorporate your culture and background into your language lessons?

I come from Scotland in the UK and it’s great to share my experience and culture as a Scot to aid language learning and learn more about my students’ backgrounds and cultures. From discussions about our different cultures to teaching about business practice and behavior in the UK, we can both learn a lot as a teacher and as students, and we can develop an understanding of the culture behind the language.

The form this takes, of course, depends on the student and their interests. This could be talking about topics such as society and culture in Scotland and the UK, business, the student’s cultural background, or their experiences of different cultures from work and travel.

What teaching methods or approaches do you find most effective when teaching Business English to your students?

I always use the PPP (Presentation, Practice, and Production) method to structure my classes. Beyond this I find the most effective approaches always help my students use English in real situations they are likely to encounter or using topics related to their job and interests.

For example, many of our students participate in work meetings in English. Roleplaying meetings, watching videos of example meetings, and discussing their current projects allow me to introduce specific new vocabulary, correct common mistakes, and give students confidence in everyday situations.

Similarly, many students need to use written English a lot in emails or reports which can be challenging for various reasons. Analyzing example emails and reports and relating this directly to learners’ actual roles can be very helpful. Finally, it is always interesting to include materials and topics from outside work to allow students to practice and improve their English using a wider range of topics.

How do you tailor your lessons to meet the specific needs and goals of your business students?

At the start of our courses, we always complete a needs analysis to allow us to better understand the student’s needs. For my Business English students, this can vary a lot as we work with businesses in a wide range of sectors.

There are many factors I consider when tailoring my classes to my learners. For example, it is important to consider what type of learner students are. Some learn more quickly with a structured approach and prefer to look at elements such as grammar and reading articles in detail.

Others work better with interactive materials such as videos or podcasts. Whichever type of resources work best for the specific student, I know as a language learner myself that building confidence is key and therefore it´s always my approach to use the resources to get students talking and using English as much as possible.

Experience from my work in Scotland also taught me to consider individual specific needs. For example, I previously worked a lot with an Autism Community Group and arranged Autism Awareness Training with an external trainer.

From this, I learned that signposting what will happen in a class is vital, and having a plan to use materials in different ways can help a lot. Actively listening to my students allows me to learn about their needs and tailor and adapt my lessons.

What do you believe are the key skills and language areas that students should focus on when learning Business English?

Key skills and areas to focus on in Business English can vary a lot depending on your level and job but I´d like to give a few examples.

Firstly, with two languages such as English and Spanish, there are many commonalities, which can be a benefit and a challenge. Therefore, helping students to understand common differences helps in both a general and business context.

Next many of my students have teams and partners from across the world and therefore helping them use English as a Global Language is a primary goal. This can include understanding English language and culture from different parts of the world and using English effectively with colleagues who are native and non-native speakers.

Finally, a focus on practically using English helps students improve rapidly. In a Business English class, this involves learning sector-specific vocabulary, practicing key business skills such as presentations and leading meetings, and using real examples from students’ work.