Transcript of Anne Emerick/Bonnie Pond Interview

Bonnie: I’d like to introduce my guest now, I’m so excited to have here with us. My guest today is Anne Emerick. She is the creator of No Work Spanish Audio Books. It’s a brand new way to learn Spanish. And Anne’s here to talk about what inspired her to create this product, and also the challenge of starting a new company while still working a full time job to pay the bills. And I know that that’s, that applies to many of you who are working full time and wanting to start your own business, not quite sure how to make it happen. So Anne, welcome to the program!

Anne: Hi Bonnie, thanks for having me on the show.

Bonnie: Where did you get the idea for No Work Spanish? How did you get started on this Anne?

Anne: It’s actually kind of funny. It came from someone was discussing history, of all things, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and, I was suddenly thinking about how I knew all of the names of the 5 men who were in charge of writing the Declaration of Independence. Most people are aware that Thomas Jefferson really did the writing and a few people know that John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, were also involved. But there are actually 5 men, the fourth and fifth are Roger Sherman from Connecticut and Robert Livingston from New York. And, I wasn’t a history major so I, I was thinking about how easy it is for me to remember all 5 names and why that is.

And the reason I know them is because those names are part of a song, which was kind of a funny song and it’s on the album of the musical 1776, which my fifth grade used to play every Wednesday afternoon during our craft time. Now, I was in fifth grade a very long time ago. So, the words to that song which are really a discussion or an argument among those 5 men about who should write the initial draft, had stayed with me all those years, since I was in fifth grade. And I went from thinking about that to thinking about how we learn the words to songs without really trying to do so.

I mean, I think everyone’s had the experience that, you know, there’s a new hit song on the radio and you don’t make an effort to learn the words but you, you’ve heard them a few times and now you know them. And, it’s especially true of songs that are either expressing emotions that we relate to, or maybe, words that we find funny. And, from that I suddenly wondered if instead of a song, you were listening to a story where you first heard a sentence said in English and then you heard that same sentence said in Spanish, would your mind connect the two automatically, just like it links one line in a song to the next.

And I thought about it a little bit and I thought why not? Why wouldn’t it work like that?

You know, it’s really the same concept. And I, I thought well, Gee, if it does work like that, wouldn’t that be, you know, a lot more fun, a lot more fun way to learn a language than the normal foreign language audio program. So that was actually the original idea that came to me.

Bonnie: Well that’s a really interesting concept and you’re absolutely right about how songs and words seem to stick in our minds. And I’m really interested and I’m intrigued by how you began to develop this No Work Spanish program. Tell us…

Anne: OK.

Bonnie: A little bit about that.

Anne: So I had the idea and I thought about it and I thought well, the only way to really know whether or not this works would be to try it. And I chose Spanish, it was a good choice from the point of view that there’s actually the greatest demand for learning Spanish in this country, but I actually chose it because I had taken French in high school and college and I had no background in understanding Spanish. So, I thought, you know, my learning Spanish, through this method myself would be a much better test of the method.

So I had written stories for children for several years and I had one that was published and I gave that story, I, you know you can find anything online these days. I went online and there were websites that offered voice talent services — people who were providing recordings for either making commercials or audio books. Any sort of voice talent, post their resume and what they can do and included in that are whether or not they have translation skills. You know, what languages they know. So I went on there and I looked for someone and I actually posted the job on saying that I needed somebody with Spanish skills and you know, approximate budget and chose somebody from that and explained to them what I wanted, how I wanted them to read the story.

And, the first reader, the very first story recorded was Poster Girl. And Michelle Thorson is the reader for that and she sent me a very brief recording of like just the first paragraph. Asking, you know, is this what you wanted, I just wanted to double check before I do more and I could tell it – it definitely worked at that point. I was, you know, I was very excited. And so she started sending me chapters as she completed them and I started listening to them and, and learning from them and I went… So she finished the whole story and I listened to it while I was driving in the car, probably for a couple of months and I started thinking I’ve got to have some way that’s measuring how much I’m learning. And again, [laugh], I got online and searched for Spanish listening comprehension exams and there’s, there weren’t a lot.

Basically what I found was that New York Regents Exam, their Spanish 3 Regents exam includes a listening comprehension test. And that was the only standard test of listening comprehension in Spanish I could find. So, there’s some copies of that available in study guides. So after I had worked with the Poster Girl No-Work Spanish for a couple of months, I decided to take one of those listening comprehension exams and, I was very disappointed with how I did. It was, I was barely better than what I would have gotten, what I scored if I was guessing. And, but, you know, I, I knew I was learning and I thought OK, this exam didn’t show that I was learning. You know, let’s think about why that might be. And I thought I, I think I just need, you know, more vocabulary. You know, there were too many questions where there were entire passages that the words in the passage hadn’t come up in the Poster Girl story. I thought each story is going to have different vocabulary; I needed a second story.

So I chose another story that I had written, Yaks March on Washington. And I went back and found another reader. I wanted each story to have a different reader because everybody has slight variations in pronunciation and I think there are some folks that have the experience of having the same Spanish teacher for, you know, five years through junior or not five years of the same one but you know, a single one for a couple of years and then somebody else for a couple of years. And then they go on maybe to college or they go to take a standardized test and whoever is reading that doesn’t sound like the person they learned from. So I wanted a different reader for each story. The second story recorded but it’s actually the first of the series, is Yaks March on Washington recorded by Jean-Marc Berne And it was funny because he was also kind of like, “I, I really want to make sure I’m understanding what format you want this read in.” Because, you know, nothing is read in this format. You know, they were used to being asked to translate something and then record it in Spanish or maybe record it first in English and then in Spanish. But [laugh] never this alternating. But he, he was sort of similar in that he, he sent me something saying you know, is this what you want.

So he recorded the Yaks March on Washington and I did the same thing. I listened to that for a couple of months, on and off, whenever I was, not whenever but almost every time I was in the car. And then I tried again. I got a different edition of the Regents listening comprehension exam and it’s funny because I was only maybe 3 or 4 questions into it and I had a couple of questions already that I just didn’t completely get what they were saying and I thought oh, you know, shoot! This, you know, I, I’m…, this still isn’t going to cut it. But I thought well, keep going, keep going and let’s see if there’s improvement and I did keep going and it was just kind of random luck that I had those couple of questions early on that I didn’t really get. Because when I got all the way done and I scored it, I had gotten an 11 out of 15.

Bonnie: That’s great!

Anne: And I realized, I thought – 11 out of 15 – that is a passing score.
Bonnie: Oh, absolutely. So it, it sounds like what you did then is you started out with one story and, and realized oh gosh, I’m not learning enough. I need more vocabulary. So you adjusted your method. Got another story, and got some more vocabulary and then you proved to yourself, this really does work.

Anne: Right. Exactly. So, and then at that point I thought well I really want to make this a product. You know, I am convinced that it works. I do have some proof. Granted, some people say that’s just you, but I was never very good at foreign languages, and, it did in fact work. And so at that point I wanted to make it into a product and I started, you know, getting quotes in terms of producing actual CD’s and create, looked into creating the website.
Bonnie: Oh, let’s talk about your website here really quickly in case people would like to go to it, go to, and you’ve got your audio books available for purchase right on your website. Is that right, Anne?
Anne: Yes. And also on the website there’s some short excerpts and also some longer excerpts and description of the stories, and there’s a third one coming out. I don’t have a firm date for it yet, The Case of the Missing Poodle. That one I actually, that’s the first one I wrote specifically for No Work Spanish. As opposed to having a story that I had already written and, and, you know, choosing to use it for No Work Spanish and The Case of the Missing Poodle has a lot of travel vocabulary.

Bonnie: OK.

Anne: which the other ones had, had much more limited travel vocabulary.

Bonnie: Are, are you gearing this to a particular age group or particular demographic?

Anne: It’s really targeted, it could be elementary school on up, and when I say up, my mother who is 83, I think, 84? and she listened to this and she also said that she was never very good at languages or even learning listening to audio, and she really loved it and was really surprised at how much she learned from it. And she’s actually even since emailed me a study about how listening and learning like this is just like crossword puzzles and would keep the seniors’ mind sharp and help keep away Alzheimer’s.

Bonnie: Oh, that’s great! You’ve got a really broad range of people who could use your products!

Anne: It is a broad range. Probably there’re groups, a couple of groups that it would appeal to very much. You know, kids in school that are, that are maybe struggling with Spanish. And they feel like they are studying and they don’t, or they don’t want to study anymore. This is something you can just play while you’re doing other things.

Bonnie: Uh huh.

Anne: Whether you’re in the car, whether you’re walking around the house, if somebody chooses to they can put it on their IPod and take a walk or work out. So if you’re, if somebody that, that’s taken Spanish in school and want to do better than they currently are or they just want to reinforce it, and try and, you know, remember what they learned that much longer. So it appeals to both people in school and folks like where I was at, was a long commute, you know is a great group in terms of this having appeal because you can use it without finding the time and, and if you’re already in your car, for a big portion of the day then you want to get something out of that time in the car.

Bonnie: Absolutely right. Now, I know that you, you’re in the launching phase right now. And as a new entrepreneur, you’re still working full time and you’re doing your, you’re finding the time to launch No Work Spanish kind of as a sideline and eventually I’m sure that you’re going to be moving into this as your full time business. But have you had, what’s your biggest ‘Aha’ moment so far as a new entrepreneur?

Anne: Hm, probably the biggest ‘Aha’ moment really was the, the moment that I knew for sure that, you know, this concept was going to work. And that actually happened when Michelle sent me that very first paragraph read and there’s a point in it – the main character is talking about somebody else and, and she says, “She is so annoying. Qué fastidiosa.” – and of course Michelle says it better than I do because [laugh] she’s a professional actress and that’s one of the reasons I chose her.

But when I heard it read and those words stuck in my mind, I thought yes, you know, it’s like aha! This, this does work and with that was the conviction that this, this should be a product. This should be something people have available to them because too often languages are something that separate people and, you know, they, this is the way if you can learn another language, it’s a way to help connect people from different cultures.
Bonnie: That’s absolutely right. And for many people, whether they’re working for another company or thinking that I’m going to have my own company, having a second language or a third language is a real advantage and we, we’re a global society really now. Whether people want to admit it or not. And being monolingual is something that’s really not an advantage. To have another language under your belt is a great advantage. Now what’s your biggest, I hate to call it an obstacle but I’m not really sure what else to call it. We, when we’re launching a business, every single one of us has things that we have to work around or get past. What, what’s your biggest one so far and how did you overcome it?

Anne: The biggest is in fact that I do still need to pay bills and [laugh], therefore, and No Work Spanish required a fair amount of initial investment. Paying people to translate and recording the stories in addition to producing the CD’s. So, financially, you know, I didn’t have some huge savings account, I wasn’t going to take a second mortgage and, and I wasn’t going, I wasn’t in the position to try and, you know, find somebody to invest in the company. So I was going to continue working my full time job. And, that is, it is a real challenge.

In terms of overcoming it, I think, I think that there’s a, a couple things. One I am always kind of looking at whether it’s, whether it’s my day job or whether it’s my home life and family responsibilities and whether it’s No Work Spanish, you really have to stick to what is absolutely essential. And, you know, that, that might sound to many people, they would think that’s sort of like a poor strategy. That, you know, you’re going to do the bare minimum. But, if in fact you’re working a full time job and you have a family and you’re trying to launch a new business, you’re already going above and beyond, simply by, you know, dealing, doing that many different things that you care about and you’re investing heavily in.

So you really have to stick to the essentials in each area. And, you know, maybe that means that, you know, every night isn’t a home cooked meal or, you know maybe when it comes to… as an example -actually I had wanted to launch with the full 3 stories with the Poster Girl and Yaks March on Washington and The Case of the Missing Poodle. But the third story, was delayed a little bit and financially it was, I was already kind of scraping. And I, I didn’t really have the time to make that third story happen in the same sort of timeframe that I could make the first two. So I had to accept well, you know, what’s actually, what’s absolutely essential? What’s absolutely essential is that I actually have a product out there and people can try this method. It isn’t essential that the three stories go out together. So, you know, really, I think it’s in terms of overcoming that obstacle, you know, it’s a matter of really prioritizing and looking at what you really need to do to make something work. Not, not what you’d like to do. [Laugh]. Not what you do in a perfect world. Not what you do if you didn’t have a full time job. But, you know, what, what do you need?

Bonnie: That makes such good sense and that, that’s really something that a lot of people, whether they’ve been in business for a long time or whether they’re just starting out, that’s great advice because focused and taking care of the essentials, what’s number one on your to do list and prioritizing really gets you where you want to be a lot faster than trying to do everything and be everything and, and have everything just perfect and, and try to do too many things at once. One of the things that I really took away from this in our conversation too, Anne, is that you started with a belief in your product. And you just kind of stepped out in faith and got started. You didn’t have every single thing in place. You didn’t have a big budget to work with, but you knew that this was something that you really wanted to do and you believed in your product and believed it would help other people learn Spanish in a fun way. so you just said OK, I’m going, I’m going to step out, I’m going to try it, I’m going to get going.
And I think that that’s just so key because a lot of people who are considering starting a business, whether it’s something full time or just kind of dipping their toe in the water with a sideline business, over think it, think everything has to be lined out perfectly, they want, they want to know every single step along the way before they even get started and what happens is they don’t start then.

Anne: Right.

Bonnie: And so I, I’m really glad that you shared that part of your story because I think that’s something that wannabe entrepreneurs and new entrepreneurs really need to hear. You know, you’ve got a business that’s already up and running, that’s, and people can go to your website and get your audio books and, and sample your product too, which I think is really interesting. And I know that you are in the launching phase right now, but let’s talk about the big dream for your business. Let’s talk about a year out, five years out. What do you see for No-Work Spanish then?

Anne: Additional languages and, and actually the, the very next labor of it would really be English as a Second Language. The same stories where it’s being said first in Spanish and then in English. And actually it’s interesting because I have a friend who works with many immigrant families and she was talking about how particularly the mom is at home, if they come over as a family. And the kids go off to school and are kind of forced to learn English and many of these families it’s still traditional, the dad is working and therefore is out every day among English speaking people. And she knew a lot these people with moms where the moms really, you know, Spanish was spoken at home and their English remained very limited. And I thought, I was thinking, you know, wouldn’t that be great to have every ESL classroom have a library of these stories that you could take, a child could take them home and play it at home and then extend the learning to the family as well. That, and I guess also when you’re talking about the demographics of the market, these are very family, they’re certainly rated G, I can’t imagine any stories that I would publish that would go above a PG rating.

Bonnie: Uh huh.

Anne: And so they can be listened to together. As opposed to, traditional learning always happening in a classroom with just one individual. So in terms of a big dream, it would be additional languages and certainly more stories coming out, and stories written by folks other than myself. I certainly don’t have a lock on, you know, I don’t want this to simply be every single story is written by me because I want the best stories, the whole idea of why you want to listen to this is this story is captivating and speaks to you and different writers connect with different listeners. So I definitely want to have different writers involve. And I do still want to continue as much as possible every story having a new reader. You know, again a new voice, somebody new performing it, different pronunciations. So, that’s, that’s a little bit of what, what my vision includes.

Bonnie: Sounds like you’ve got a big vision for your business and you have started thinking about not just what will work for one slice of the market, but how can I tweak it just a little bit to make it work for more people and to make it available to more people. Now I want to give your website one more time, Anne. It’s and there you can find Anne’s audio books and even sample what she’s got available. Anne, I really appreciate you being a guest on this show today. Please visit and check out what she’s got to offer!

Anne: Thanks Bonnie!