Richard Chalmers is an online English teacher committed to using technology to create innovative and engaging ways to teach English to students around the world. After developing an online presence through his YouTube channel and websites, he coined the word Britlish in 2014 and has been developing the brand ever since.
Teaching English in Spain from 2003, Richard moved exclusively to online teaching via Skype in 2009. Thanks to the success of his YouTube videos, Richard has taught 188 students in 42 countries. He has also created over 800 video English lessons which have gained millions of views. Richard also writes books and other English learning material. He sells digital versions of this material through Britlish.com, and printed versions, and Kindle versions, through Amazon.
When not teaching, writing, or making YouTube videos, Richard enjoys cycling through the Spanish countryside with his wife, and generally enjoying an idyllic lifestyle in Seville.
Q: Hello Richard, and welcome to our feature stories. Please tell us a bit about your background, and about how you became an English teacher.
If there is one constant in my life, it is the English language. Not just because English is my native language, but because I have always had a great affinity for it. Indeed, when I was 9 years old I promised myself that I would become a writer. It took another 15 years, but in 1984 I finally received my first cheque for a published article.
Unfortunately, few writers make much of a living from writing. Way back in the 14th Century, Chaucer wrote about the “author’s empty purse” and things have not changed much since. My empty purse compelled me to work first in the military, then in medicine and finally in law enforcement, while continuing to write articles, short stories, and books, of course.
In 2003, I discovered that you could make a living teaching English and moved to Spain to do just that. I had finally found a way to indulge my love of English while at the same time improving my understanding of and appreciation for the language. I’ve been teaching English ever since, and have never looked back.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about how, and why you started Britlish?
The first website I created was called Linguaspectrum.com. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the name proved to be unwieldy and not very memorable. I needed to come up with something sharper that people would be able to remember. Even though Google still asks Did you mean British? when you search for Britlish, the name is more memorable.
I coined the word, Britlish, from British and English, and was delighted to find the domain name Britlish.com was available. I even managed to get the word Britlish recognised by the online dictionary Wiktionary, and hope that one day it will make its way into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Britlish is now my online school and automatically handles all student bookings as well as payments for classes and digital products. I designed and built the system myself to be my virtual secretary and she makes sure I’m never late for a class.
Q: In your work, you make extensive use of iClone and CrazyTalk. How and when did you learn of these tools? Any particular reason why you choose to use them?
When I first started on YouTube there were only a couple of other English teachers making videos. I knew, however, that this would quickly change and I was right. Everyone and his dog seems to be “teaching” English on YouTube these days, with more channels appearing every day. I didn’t want to be just another teacher standing in front of a camera, scribbling on a whiteboard. I wanted to make video English lessons that would stand out as truly different, truly innovative and engaging, and Reallusion gave me the tools to do this.
It was one of my private students who introduced me to animation. He was heavily into Machinima and what I learned from him drove me to look around for some suitable animation software. This is how I came across iClone and CrazyTalk Animator. In May 2013, I took advantage of a Reallusion offer to buy iClone 5 Pro and get CrazyTalk Animator 2 for free.
I don’t have a background in graphics or design, and I can’t draw to save my life but Reallusion software meant that I didn’t need any skills in these areas. I just needed to learn how to use the new software and let my imagination do the rest.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but as I started my teaching career at 42 and my animation career at 52, I’m proof that you can. Thankfully, Reallusion software is very intuitive and mastering its complexities has been easier than I imagined it would be. I know that there are many things it can do that I have not discovered yet, but I am sure that I eventually will.
The key to my success has been to play with the software and just see what it can do. In fact, I refer to iClone, CrazyTalk Animator, and the other Reallusion packages as my toys and I love to play with them. Playing not working makes the whole learning process fun not hard. And, as with anything, the more I play, the better I become.
Q: Do you make all the animations yourself? How long does it take you to create one?
I’m very happy to do all the animations myself, because the creative part is half the fun for me. I am a creative person by nature and I love everything creative from writing to cooking. A day when I have not created something new is a day wasted.
I love to see how I can translate an idea into reality. The best thing about the software is the speed at which I can animate. I teach 20 to 30 private classes every week, and when I’m not teaching I’m writing, so if animation was not so quick and easy, I would never have been able to use it for anything worthwhile.
Because I am using my videos to teach English, I adopt a minimalistic approach and focus on the things that I want my students to notice. I find I can produce a short video in less than a day. I recently created a video from idea to YouTube in 2 hours!
Q: Are there any upcoming Britlish projects that the community can look forward to?
I am not really following a plan in my work. I have so many ideas that it’s impossible to turn them all into reality. I tend to come up with an idea, see if it works, and make it happen. Then I move onto something new. This way I never get bored. Luckily, I work for myself and I have enough private students to pay my bills. I am not under any pressure to do anything particular, nor do I have to work to deadlines, so I tend to do what I want.
One thing that is certain is that I’ll continue to make video English lessons using Reallusion software, of course, and I’ll continue to write my books and other material, too. I hope to publish many more books on Amazon, and I strive to post at least one new video to YouTube every week.
It’s really me who is looking forward to things, particularly to the new developments that keep coming from Reallusion. PopcornFX has added a lot to my videos, and recent improvements to Character Creator are enchanting my students. I can’t wait to see what’s coming along next.
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