The world’s first online English teaching show – attracting a massive 5000 hits a day – is broadcast out of a small, nondescript, Japanese-style apartment in Kutchan. At first, The Daily English show might seem to be a pretty straightforward production, but delve a little deeper and it becomes apparent this is an ingenious concept with clever educational techniques to enhance learning – as its popularity may suggest.
It’s the brainchild of Sarah Lilburn, a Kiwi linguist from a small coastal town on New Zealand’s North Island. Everyday Sarah, with the help of boyfriend and producer Yon, aka knf, produces a short video designed to teach anyone, anywhere in the world, English in an interesting, informative way. Many of the shows are mini-docos on Niseko and actually attract English-speaking people looking for information on the area. “The idea is it’s a mix of entertainment and education,” Sarah says. “People use it to study in a variety of ways – it’s designed not as a language course, but as something extra for people who are studying English. Many teachers use parts of the show in their classes, designing activities around it, or having people watch it for homework. It’s an interesting adjunct to learning English and encourages and motivates people to keep up their language study.”
While education is Sarah’s main focus now, she was destined to become a journalist from a young age. “I’ve been interested in media since I was a child – I published my first magazine with friends when I was about 10. We photocopied it and sold it for 50 cents at the dairy.” She decided she wanted to be a journalist when she was 15, got work experience at the local newspaper and then a part time job presenting at a commercial radio station. Meanwhile she was heavily into art and studying languages, focusing on French which took her to Tahiti for six weeks when she was 15, and two months in France the following year on a study scholarship she won. At university she studied English literature and went on to do a post-graduate degree in journalism, all the while continuing her French study and starting Maori.
After university she decided to hit the road and travel, and thought teaching English in Japan was the perfect way for her to start to pay off the massive university debt she had accumulated, while mastering yet another language and learning about Japan. She made the move in 2001 and worked at a language school in Nagoya for a year before deciding to have a look at Tokyo where she did several part time jobs teaching English.
It was around this time she met boyfriend Yon, a born and bred Tokyoite who got her into snowboarding and introduced her to Niseko. “He’d been surfing and snowboarding for a long time and had been coming to Niseko for about six years for a week every winter. It was his dream to live here. After I finally finished paying off my student loan, we decided to move up here together. Since we could do TDES from anywhere, we figured we could make TDES and go snowboarding. A perfect mix!”
As an aside, Sarah also teaches English online via Skype, meaning she can teach anyone in the world from anywhere in the world, so long as both parties have an internet connection.
To support Sarah and Yon and benefit from the massive audience TDES attracts, contact Sarah about sponsoring the program on firstname.lastname@example.org.