But her weirdest experience was with a surgeon who wanted to boost his medical English. “I watched real surgeries on YouTube and discussed them with him,” she says.
How she got the job
The German-born Korn, who tutored her family and friends in English as a teenager, began teaching professionally at a government-funded school in Vienna, where large class sizes meant she had to work harder to connect with each of her students. “I would always walk around teaching every single person based on their background and experience,” Korn says, which helped her learn how important conversation is to the learning process.
Her studies in teaching help her every day, and her additional degrees help her connect with her students even more. Korn got a master’s degree at Germany’s University of Bonn in American studies, English and political science with an emphasis on international relations. So she’s well-versed in what some of her clients deal with every day. “That helps [language students], because if you discuss something you’re interested in, you’re going to learn much more quickly,” she says.
After getting her master’s, she pursued a Ph.D. in American studies at the University of Vienna. When a scholarship took her to the University of Maryland, she realized her heart was still in language coaching, and in January 2015 she founded LinguaLink.
Who would be good at this job
One thing you don’t have to be: a native English speaker. Korn was her own first coaching client at age 7, when she taught herself English by listening to the radio. The fact that English was her second language still helps her as a coach.
“If you learn a language naturally, you don’t always know how to explain grammar,” she says. “But I have had to learn all that. So I can explain all the grammatical issues from about five different angles.”
In between grammar lessons, study up on your bus routes: Korn sees all of her clients — about 15 different students at any given time — at their homes or offices, so she spends a good deal of her day traveling up and down Embassy Row, or to the World Bank, or to meet students who are in graduate school. “I’m like a little bee jumping from client to client like they’re flowers,” Korn says.
And like any great teacher, Korn has a drive and real excitement for learning that she says her students pick up on. “If you want to learn a language, you need someone who’s going to kick your butt,” she says. That means she’s willing to reprimand the worldliest diplomats and CEOs when they don’t do their homework. But she also has to be a good conversationalist to get the language flowing. “It’s like working with a personal trainer: You’re not going to put in effort for someone you don’t like,” she says.
Though her job doesn’t require working nights or weekends, she puts in extra hours to develop lesson plans for her students. To get her clients talking, Korn familiarizes herself with human rights issues, international politics or macroeconomics as she builds vocabulary lessons for her students.
“I can get excited about almost anything,” she says. Some subjects, though, are harder than others for her to sink her teeth into. “I have had to research and discuss building bridges. That was a little dry.”
How you can get this job
Korn has lived in five countries, and says spending time all over the world is crucial to teaching people from all over the world.
“I don’t think in boxes, like, ‘Oh, you come from a certain country,’ ” she says. “I was just born somewhere by chance. You learn how relative your own viewpoint is.”
If you’d like to start your worldwide experience in the classroom, Howard University, the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, American University, George Mason University and George Washington University all offer international affairs or relations programs at the graduate level.
If teaching is your calling, the D.C. area is home to plenty of opportunities to study it at a higher level. All of the schools above, plus the University of the District of Columbia, offer education programs at the graduate level — American University and George Mason University even have programs just for people who want to teach language.
A previous version of this story misidentified Korn’s salary. It has since been corrected.
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