This isn’t our first rodeo, so you know the deal… You guys asked me some personal questions, and I’m here with answers plus 70 new vocabulary words, complete with visual vocabulary cards. Let’s get to it!
not be your first rodeo
you know the deal
If you like this style of learning vocabulary, check out some of the previous Stepper Q&A posts!
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Without further ado, here are your most recent questions!
without further ado
1. When and why did you start to run Next Step English? I love it.
First of all, Montse, thank you! Unlike my previous jobs, Next Step English is almost entirely online. That means that it’s sometimes hard for me to know if I’m doing the right thing, or what you guys find useful. So…one more time…thank you, thank you, thank you for your words of encouragement! (I guess that was three times, not one…so sue me! 😋)
I set up my Twitter account back in July of 2015, but I was just getting my feet wet. Although I’d been teaching in-person classes for a few years at that point, I was also still working full-time as a paralegal. But the more I spread my wings on Twitter, the better it felt. Here I was connecting with people about words! My number one passion in the whole wide world! It was exhilarating. I knew that I had to pursue this. So, I started saving money like crazy, and I left my full-time job in the spring of 2017. My dashing boyfriend and I eloped the week I left my job, and when we got back from our honeymoon, I started building my website.
As to why… From a selfish point of view, Next Step English gives me the opportunity to work full-time with words. As an inveterate logophile, I can’t imagine anything more delightful! It’s like a chocoholic getting to work in the Ghiradelli factory. But there was more to it than that. I really, really love this language, and to me, what makes English special is its vocabulary. For example, these are just some of the different ways to talk about how objects give off light. How gloriously expressive! 😍💛
To me, learning English and not learning the nuances of the vocabulary is like going to a Michelin-starred restaurant and ordering French fries. I’m sure the fries are great, but why would you do that?! Next Step English allows me to be a sort-of missionary for my beloved language, and if I accomplish anything with this business, I hope to help as many English learners as possible (1) have a desire to dive into the rich vocabulary of English and (2) become word mavens themselves!
Lastly—and this is selfish again—I have a pipe dream of becoming location independent. I fantasize about sitting in the mountains of the Basque Country, or on a beach Ecuador, or in a Bedouin tent with my laptop and my dictionary making a living. That may never happen, but it’s a nice dream, isn’t it?
so sue me
get your feet wet
spread your wings
2. Have you ever been to Poland?
Not yet, Robert! But I hope to wend my way there one day.
The first time Poland entered my imagination was as a child, when The Trumpeter of Krakow was among my top five favorite books. In the book, Krakow seemed full of mystery and enchantment, and it still holds that fascination for me now. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized that Poland’s magic extends far beyond Krakow. I would love to see its mountains and its forests and its castles, and I drool at the thought of pierogis and rich Polish stews! Whenever I do visit Poland, I will have to pack a pair of baggy pants in case I put on a few pounds. 😁🍕🧁🍇🧀🥟🍩🍿🌭🥞🍦🍒🌮
wend (your way)
3. What is your favourite Kevin Costner movie?
We didn’t have cable when I was a young’un, so my main exposure to movies came from public television and my family’s collection of VHS tapes. That meant a lot of British sitcoms and absolute scads of old musicals. It meant a lot of John Wayne films, and more period pieces than you could shake a stick at. We didn’t have many modern movies, but one exception to that was Dances with Wolves. Oh boy… That movie thrilled me through and through! I haven’t actually seen it as an adult, but I probably watched it 50 times when I was growing up. I want to thank you for asking this question because now I’m going to go watch it again!
So, tentatively, my answer is Dances with Wolves…but I may change my answer if that movie isn’t as good as I remember. 😉
More recently, I really loved Hidden Figures.
scads (of something)
more (...) than you can shake a stick at
through and through
4. What have been the best – and worst – surprises of your Next Step English journey so far?
What a question, Will! 🙃
This whole world of trying to get an online business off the ground has been a learning experience. Just about every aspect of it has held at least a few surprises. In some ways, I’m still finding my feet, and I’m still running into surprises.
On the positive end, I have been surprised by what warm connections I’ve been able to make with people, without ever having met them in real life. That goes for my wonderful students, and for my fellow teachers. The internet can sometimes feel like a great, cold, lonely void…but then you find yourself genuinely connecting with someone halfway across the globe, and that has been truly amazing.
And not to toot my own horn, but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by my own ability to learn new skills. If you had asked me a few years ago if I was capable of building a website, I’d have laughed in your face. Now, I know that I can do it. My website isn’t the prettiest, or the fastest, or the best in any way…but I built it all by myself, and I’m both proud and utterly flabbergasted by that.
As for the negative surprises… Before I started Next Step English, I listened to countless podcasts about starting an online business. There were things that I knew would challenge me—like building the website—and things that I had assumed would come easily. Before I started, I genuinely thought that the selling side of the business would come easily to me. Oh no… I still struggle with this. I love creating free content and connecting with my students, but when it comes to selling anything, I get sweaty palms, my heart starts doing the foxtrot, and I become a puddle of insecurity and anxiety. Agh! I didn’t expect that, and it’s really a problem! 🥶😩
I’ve also been negatively surprised by the ever-changing nature of social media algorithms. AGH! You’re flying high one day and you’re struggling to get even a hundred views on a tweet the next. But, c’est la vie. I can live with it.
find your feet
toot your own horn
5. In which subjects are you an expert in addition to English?
Thanks for the question, Fahad! I have been enthralled by the English language since I was a kid, and nothing else in my life has had that type of focus for so long. That being said, I know a little bit about a few other topics. I’m no professor when it comes to these topics, but I’m no boob either.
I am interested in anything to do with belly dance, especially its history and how the dance changes in different parts of the world. I’m not a belly dancer myself, but I always grin from ear to ear when I have the chance to see a performance. Luckily, the DC area is blessed with lots of immigrants, which means plenty of Middle Eastern restaurants and plenty of belly dancers. There is no shortage of shimmying round here on a Saturday night!
Horses are another passion of mine. I am not a horse expert, but if someone has something to say about horses, I am always eager to learn. I rode for years as a kid, and when I got older, I gave riding lessons to children with disabilities. Unfortunately, as our population has boomed, our local stables have been pushed out by developers, and the fields and forests where I used to ride have been taken over by subdivisions. The stables that remain are prohibitively expensive. So, I no longer ride at home—I just can’t afford it—but when I travel, I usually set aside one full day to go riding and to learn about horse culture in that part of the world, and those have been some of my best memories. I’ve ridden around volcanoes in Iceland and through rainforest in Costa Rica, and before I die, I hope to ride the world over.
Lastly, I have a pet fascination with the bizarre scholarly ideas of past generations…the ideas that seem comically misguided to us now, but that people saw as credible in days of yore. One of my favorite books is Physiologus, which is a medieval bestiary. By way of example, Physiologus tells us this about the weasel:
(I think we can safely say that weasel birth does not work like this. 🤣) I’ve got a 19th-century discourse that links sexual orientation to climate, and I’ve got an 18th-century treatise that seriously believes that chocolate turns women into crazed nymphomaniacs. (The only thing chocolate ever turned me into was a crazed chocoholic!) Some of these historical oddities are funny—as with the bestiary—and some of them make my blood boil. For example, I have one book published in the 1960s that seriously posits that people are born with dark skin because they had cowardly spirits before they were born. The book goes on to use this as a justification for racial discrimination, and it’s hard to contain my anger when I read it. But whether they’re amusing, or infuriating, my home library is sprinkled with these oddities, and I find them incredibly interesting.
…and yes, ‘boob’ is also a slang term for a woman’s breast.
grin from ear to ear
the world over
make your blood boil
Do you have any personal questions for me?
Ask me in the comments below, and I will answer them next time! 💙