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How This Student Went From Studying English to Starting a Business

This article is sponsored by Ace Language Academy

Alisa’s story is nothing short of impressive. While completing an English course is a fantastic way to adjust to a new life overseas, Japanese-born Alisa used the experience as a launchpad to establish her own business.

Alisa was born in Sendai, a city in the north-east of Japan. At university, she completed a degree in environmental studies, then took up an environmental research and consultancy role at Think Tank Company, a research institute in Japan. After that, Alisa started learning translation and subtitling and was assigned to the overseas research team in Australia.

“I then became a freelance subtitler and dubbing translator following the birth of my first child,” she says. “Our family then moved to Melbourne as my husband entered graduate school here.” 

Alisa is now a mother to two boys, works at a hip Japanese restaurant in central Melbourne, and has recently launched her own virtual assistant service. All in all, she’s built a great life for her family in Australia.

Alisa’s study journey

When Alisa was a little girl, her mother listened to English radio programs every day, which helped Alisa improve her basic listening skills and understanding of the English language. Although, she always felt her education could have gone further.

“I learned English at junior high and high school, but it wasn’t practical and I had less opportunity to speak English with others,” she says. 

This lack of practical experience meant Alisa wasn’t fully confident in speaking English when she first moved to Australia.

“After I came to Melbourne, I found there was a big difference between daily conversational English and what I had learned back at school in Japan,” she says. 

Alisa took action and decided to learn from native speakers by signing up to an English course at Ace Language Academy. “I studied General English at Ace Language Academy and improved my speaking, reading, writing and even listening,” she says. 

Through the course, Alisa has become more self-assured when conversing with locals, especially customers at the restaurant and fellow mothers. Ace Language Academy uses an immersive learning technique called the Callan Method, which allows students to speak and listen in English in a fast-paced but effective environment. It makes lessons easier to absorb and more fun for students. The Callan Method is taught in over 40 countries worldwide, but Ace Language Academy is the only English school in Melbourne that uses it. 

Starting her own business 

Combining her professional background, entrepreneurial spirit and English proficiency, Alisa has recently launched her own business – a virtual assistant service called A+ Office

“The business is a virtual assistant service for Japanese small business owners to help with their research, routine paper works, making presentations and translations,” Alisa says. “I aim to get my clients free from complicated paperwork or research and focus more on their main jobs or creative and management jobs.”

She started the new venture when she noticed how many small businesses had been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown. She wanted to support them online with her business capabilities and English language skills. 

The original idea of this business came from my own experiences as a researcher and consultant in Tokyo. I worked in both the front office and back office with them and learned many things,” she says.

While it’s still early days, Alisa says her business is thriving: “I have some great clients I’m working with and enjoying it so far!”

From General English to Business English

After her business had been up and running for a little while, Alisa realised many Japanese business owners needed virtual assistants who were confident with business English. So, she’s currently undertaking another course at Ace Language Academy, this time with a workplace focus.

“I decided to study Business English at Ace Language Academy to help my clients with their global business in the near future,” she says. 

Ace Language Academy’s Business English course is more specific than General English, concentrating on business phrases and grammar, resumes and workplace communication. It’s taken some time for Alisa to become comfortable with her English-speaking ability, but she credits Ace Language Academy with supporting her through the process.

“Tom, the founder, and the teachers at Ace Language Academy are very friendly and amazing teachers,” she says. “Thanks to him and the Academy, I’m no longer afraid of making mistakes and trying to speak whatever I want, even if my English isn’t perfect.

“Tom helps us to learn the local English expressions, prepare job resumes and anything you find challenging with English, and that is the big difference of Ace Language Academy compared to other language schools.”

Plans for the future

Alisa has big plans for her future. She’s keen to grow her business and use it to empower other mothers who want to balance their work and family lives.

“In the future I will go back to Japan, where I will work to make my business more internationally known,” she says. “I really want to help other mothers who want to work from home, so they can start their careers as virtual assistants. I understand the work and pressure as a working mother and want to give my advice and guide other mothers to be able to work and raise a family at the same time. 

“I get a lot of pleasure in helping people, especially people who are going through similar things to me. It’s so cool to be able to assist them with similar problems and show them that they can do it.”

Alisa’s advice for fellow students

Alisa can’t recommend an English course enough, not only for improving confidence and ability, but also for enhancing the student experience. She believes that if international students can develop their English skills, they will better enjoy life in Australia.

“I believe developing your English skills opens the door to understanding people with different cultures and backgrounds, and that allows you to expand your possibilities for the future. If international students can speak English more clearly, they can tell their opinions and express their thoughts and feelings to people,” she says.

“They can get more work, make more friends, learn more about the place they are living in and show locals what they are like.”