Hindi and English being the only restricted languages that we all have grown older and wiser with; this young lady’s instincts grew beyond learning around 5 different foreign languages. And she hasn’t kept all of that to herself but has been imparting the knowledge to the lesser known.
She is Shalaka Vaishnav, the Linguist who knows more than just saying Hello in 5 different languages; keeping English and Hindi apart!
Shalaka, meaning a beam of light is a radiant individual who emits energy that can fill up the entire room. With a string of support coming from her husband Piyush Vaishnav, Hotelier and also a Line producer, parents, father-in-law and younger brother, she aims high.
Hailing originally from Nagpur, she is a bookworm, a foodie and a dog-lover. Her dedication towards learning and being constant at it is what makes her a woman of substance. Beauty with brains and profound language skills, she wins hearts with her flamboyant personality. What started as a classroom of 6 students in September, 2012 now boasts of 32 students learning, speaking, writing languages of the world. Thanks to her, she is turning the world, easier to understand.
While I got completely flabbergasted and lost in translations, I found meaning in the simplest, diminutive words that came directly from her heart. Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Q. First thing first, how many languages do you actually speak?
(with a laugh) If it is about speaking then I know English, Hindi, Marathi, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Japanese. Out of these, I have done the teacher’s level course for the last 5 languages and I teach them at my institute along with English for TOEFL and IELTS. Also, I have been to Germany to pass the training course for the language.
Q. People usually end up learning maximum 3 languages. What made you study so many?
My father was the Vice President of Videocon and his job profile made us wander throughout the world, understanding culture and people. Interaction with so many people opened my window to languages. In my junior college time, I had opted for an optional foreign language and since then, my interest grew manifold.
My father convinced me to move forward with this interest and soon I was learning languages from Max Mueller Bhavan and Alliance Francais Institute Espana. My brother who had learnt Japanese convinced me for that language too and I did, although I have passed 1st level.
Q. But your name plate says that you are an Advocate!
(laughs hysterically) Yes, I have done my Masters in International Business Law from UK and I even practiced law for 3 days! All it took me was 3 days of practicing law in Nagpur’s court to understand that this is not my cup of tea. As I had a back up option of languages that became my career and now it has been 4 years since I am into this field and I have no regrets. By The Way, I always wanted to be an Air Hostess! That ambition also flew away somewhere.
Q. How is Shalaka Vaishnav in the classroom?
My objective is very simple- You learn language not just for the heck of it, but because you connect yourself to it. Thankfully in my career as a trainer, I have never come across students who learn language to set them apart from the crowd but they have a specific motive. I am also a visiting faculty of French language at MB College and I have taught soldiers at the Army Cantt as well. I try my level best to teach proper skills and language basics so that the students can excel in their fields.
Q. What are the difficulties that you have faced during your tenure of teaching?
The only problem that I see in youth today is the absence of tendency to unlearn. When I take spoken English class, I face the challenge to wash out the half knowledge that the students have gained because clearly someone fed them wrong. And now, it becomes difficult to unlearn that has been embedded in their brain for such a long time.
I also, have to be very attentive in what I am teaching students in language class as the onus remains on me to teach the correct thing as in foreign languages, they would not have the exposure to understand the difference between right and wrong. I feel it is an important role of a teacher to teach the correct information to the students who come under the guidance and create their future.
Q. With such positive response from people in Udaipur, how do you see yourself in future?
You may find this a bit funny but ever since I have seen the column ‘Meet Your Neighbor’ in the TOI’s weekly edition newspaper, it is my ardent wish to see myself in that column. Also I want to see chains of Oxford IFL spread across the country teaching languages.
Q. In your journey, who has been your biggest strength?
Undoubtedly my parents, my brother, my husband Piyush Vaishnav and specially my father in law. He has been the most supporting pillar in my life. My husband and I were in a courtship for 10 years before we got married. My decision of switching from law to languages has been supported, encouraged and motivated by all these 5 people. I don’t know if I were too lucky but have always been shown green flag in all my career options and there is no complain, at all.
Shalaka Vaishnav runs Oxford IFL, language learning center, which also enrolls students for spoken English and personality development. She can be contacted on +91-8107423333 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.