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It’s never too late to learn a foreign language

I recall reading an article just over 11 years ago as I was about to graduate from Uni on the decreasing interest among Brits, already pretty low, in learning foreign languages. Inspired, perhaps by my contrariness, and still licking the wounds and scars left by learning French at school with Miss Bell, for whom I was a right pain in the arse, I decided to start learning Russian and move to Russia. In the intervening years, I've learned three other languages to varying levels of fluency, but all good enough to enter into and build friendships in those languages. 

My friends know me as a grumpy so-and-so who avoids other people at the best of times; however, randomly meeting someone and getting to know a little about them and their background in their own language is a massive source of pleasure and an absolute privilege, which dawns on me afresh every time I have one of these weird communions.

This morning I had one such exchange with a taxi driver in Fes in a mixture of standard Arabic and Moroccan dialect, which was just about understandable, and it has left me in a fantastic mood and slightly emotional all day. I didn't end up where I had wanted to go, but that was not ultimately the point. I had had a great time arriving where I did and learnt a lot along the way.

To those of you who don't speak a foreign language, all I can say is that it is the most incredible, challenging and rewarding journey and one which I recommend wholeheartedly. It's a long hard slog, but it's worth it.

To those of you who think you're too old to learn something new, there's a couple at my school here in Morocco who are well into their retirement years and are learning Arabic together.

Introducing Cloudberry Language Solutions

Cloudberry has been working with corporate and government clients since it was established. However, this year we have created a new corporate division due to increased demand. Please welcome our big sister Cloudberry Language Solutions and don't hesitate to recommend us to your companies if they need translation/interpreting services, website localization, transcription or foreign language training for their employees.

Check out our new web site for corporate clients and government agencies:


2014 Annual Summary

I am delighted to report that our performance in 2014 reflected our excellent team work and was in line with our expectations and guidance on every key metric.

The last year was a truly productive one for Cloudberry. As we said last December, our objective for 2014 was to start playing with the big boys and we managed to accomplish that as we began working with government clients and increased our corporate client base.

In 2014 we added more non-traditional languages to our core languages of Russian, Arabic and Mandarin and provided high-quality interpreting, translation and language instruction services in Tagalog, Indonesian, Swahili, Urdu, Albanian, Twi and Japanese in Illinois, Colorado and other states.

We designed unique language immersion programs for adults and now offer them in Colorado, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina. You can now immerse yourself in a foreign language 24/7 for a couple of weeks without leaving the country or even your own state.

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2013 Annual Summary

In December, our school reached the important milestone of one year since its inception. Along with our students, we learned a lot over the last year. We were presented with a number of great opportunities and overcame unexpected challenges.

This year we focused on taking care of our clients, doing things right the first time and making sure that promises made were kept—to our clients, our instructors, translators and one another.

We are most proud of the following accomplishments in 2013:

  • Launched both group-based and private Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and ESL lessons in five Chicago neighborhoods
  • Launched online Russian and Arabic classes for children and adults in small towns in Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Washington and Colorado who otherwise would not have had access to these languages in their hometowns
  • Launched ESL instruction for children and adults in Russia
  • Hired new teachers for four different languages all around the U.S.
  • Expanded globally to attract new students from Europe and Eurasia
  • Helped the non-profit Upwardly Global to provide jobs for two talented candidates
  • Began working with Chicago Public Schools

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How speaking a foreign language can benefit you in life, education, and career

Ever since my move to the US almost 11 years ago, my bilingual status benefited me in multiple ways. My exposure to Russian culture, literature, and history helped me connect with people I’ve met along the way, as I was sharing my heritage through humorous, myth-dispelling, yet often educational and thought-provoking conversations. Being able to shed insight on another culture with others — be that in business context, where understanding of the unique cultural workplace landscape is crucial, or in other situations, where interest is driven by traveling, relationships, or academic pursuits — was always gratifying for me. Just as importantly, however, my ability to speak the Russian language and understand the culture opened doors to many exciting academic and professional opportunities. As companies I worked for acknowledged the importance of international exposure in an increasingly global marketplace, my bilingual status set me apart and allowed me to get involved in some fascinating projects.

Case in point is an exciting opportunity that came my way a few years ago while I was working at a major multinational consumer goods manufacturer. The company made a major strategic acquisition in Russia, and a team was being formed to conduct the consumer market due diligence in the new product category.

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Russian Language for Business

Cloudberry recently spoke with Joan Jaeger who lived in Eastern Europe at tumultuous 90-s.

Joan is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a double major in Russian and International Studies and a minor in Mathematics. Then she received her MBA and MA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan. She worked for Johnson & Johnson in their Consumer Products division for 10 years and spent most of those years abroad in Eastern European countries. She then made a transition to a non-profit world and now is a Vice President of Marketing, Outreach and Communications at The Cradle, an adoption agency headquartered in Evanston, IL.

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