Building The English Space: Why and What Next

Today, I’d like to talk about one of my other projects, The English Space. It’s a website where I create lessons and resources for people learning and teaching English.

Why I Created The English Space

I started working on The English Space in 2007. At that time, I’d been teaching English as a Second Language for three or four years. We’d just spent a year in France and travelling around Europe, and we were preparing to go back to Australia where I intended to look for a job in industrial relations (my degree qualification).

Being able to teach English, and pick up work fairly easily around the world, is a really useful skill to have. I knew that once I stopped teaching and using that knowledge regularly, it would dwindle away. This was my first reason for setting up The English Space. It was a way for me to maintain my skills, and keep some current experience on my CV in case I wanted to go back to teaching in the future. That turned out to be really important. We’ve since moved back to France and I am, indeed, teaching English again. The English Space was invaluable in that transition.

On to my second reason for starting The English Space: the quality of English resources available on the Internet. Back in 2007, the schools I was working for weren’t well-stocked with resources, and my personal collection was limited. So, I frequently turned to the Internet to find resources for my classes. This turned out to be huge challenge. So many of the sites I found were plastered in advertising – more advertising than actual content. When I clicked on a link that looked promising, I was never sure if I was going to find the promised resources, or just more advertising.

I wanted The English Space to be different. I wanted it to be a trustworthy source of high-quality resources. I wanted it to be the site I was looking for when I needed materials for my classes. I wanted somewhere I could refer my students to.

We do have some advertising and affiliate links on The English Space. They help to cover the running costs of the site, and I try to keep them unobtrusive and clearly marked as advertising.

The website has grown slowly over the years. I work on it and add to it as time allows, and it has become bigger than I ever imagined. Bigger both in terms of the amount of material we’ve created, and in terms of the number of people who visit each day. I can still see so much scope for improvement and expansion, but finding the time to work on it is getting harder. I simply can’t turn down paid teaching work, which pays the bills, to work on it.

The Future

I’d like to dedicate more time to The English Space. There are so many things I’d like to improve. I’d like to create practice exercises, to add audio, and to make video lessons. To make this viable, I’ve decided to try patronage using a service called Patreon. Patreon allows our fans and supporters to help us by giving an amount they choose each month. In return, there are special rewards and updates available exclusively to our patrons.

I have two hopes for this new path of patronage. The first is simple: that the income from patronage will justify me spending more time on the site and allow me to carve out the hours for it. After all, once it is generating income, it no longer needs to be subservient to paid teaching work.

Secondly, it changes the relationship I have with those who use the website. Up to now, I’ve made The English Space mostly for me. With patrons comes responsibility. The responsibility to produce great resources that are good for them, and to produce them regularly. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

A rainbow from my window
A rainbow from my window

Why Patreon?

Lots of our daily entertainment comes from small creators, and many of our favourite podcasts and YouTubers have joined Patreon. I’ve seen what an amazing positive difference patronage has made to these creators. While I’m sure patronage makes a huge difference to them personally, it also has an impact on their work, in the form of more and better content. I appreciate the improvement Patreon has allowed for the content I consume, and I hope I can do the same for those who use my content.

The other thing I really like about it is that a handful of patrons can help create better resources for everyone. I feel this is especially important in the English teaching world. The visitors to The English Space come from around the world, including countries that don’t enjoy the same standard of living that we do. Students often don’t have much income, and I know what it’s like to be a teacher with no income to spare on resources.

I don’t expect everyone to contribute, but a few kind contributors can make all the difference. Patrons help me create more and better resources, and everyone gets to benefit from them.

Can You Help?

If you like The English Space, and can afford it, please become a patron. I really appreciate your support, and please know that every dollar helps.

If patronage is not for you, you can still help by sharing the site with friends, family, colleagues, anyone who might be interested or find it useful. And if you don’t already, follow us on your favourite social media platform- Facebook, Twitter, G+.