Mentor for Techies Creates Web Dev English
Kira Bragg ’12, a former English major at Pfeiffer University, has become a self-described “English Mentor for Techies.”
Her clients, all of whom have a mother tongue other than English, are pursuing such positions as software engineers, web developers, and designers. They want to work in English because, as Bragg says, “the tech world is happening in that language.” But they fear their English-language skills have put them at a disadvantage in the job market.
So, since January of last year, Bragg has been offering private and group instruction online through Web Dev English, her web-based business, where she introduces herself as “a certified language nerd who helps techies communicate more clearly.”
Web Dev English is rooted in interests about which Bragg, who now resides in South Bend, Ind., is particularly passionate.
She loves teaching English as a second language and has been doing it for some time — most recently at a language school in Ecuador, a country she favored because it also enabled her to improve her Spanish in a warm-weather environment.
At Ohio University, where she earned a master’s degree in applied linguistics, she taught English to international students, served as an International Student Advisor, and helped foreign nationals obtain work authorization after they graduated.
Bragg is into technology and its possibilities. An avid blogger since the early 2000s, she had long been fascinated by the webpage changes she can make with just a few keystrokes. At Ohio University, she also obtained a graduate certificate in computer-assisted learning.
In 2018, Bragg began to see the possibilities that the web could play in her work as an English instructor. She worked for two years as a remote instructor of English on italki.com, a platform that matches students and teachers of foreign languages. During that time, she soon noticed a trend that would become her niche at Web Dev English: “The students who were seeking me out most often and the students with whom I clicked the most were in the tech community.”
At Web Dev English, Bragg focuses on preparing clients for job interviews at potential employers such as Microsoft and Google. This entails getting them in a place where they can remain calm and ready to say what they want to say.
“Your second-language performance is not necessarily dependent on how much you’ve learned up to a certain point,” Bragg said. “It’s more dependent on your current state of mind. I think that the biggest threat to comfortable language learning is thinking too much about how you sound or what you say or if you’re going to say something wrong. So, I like to create a place where people don’t care if they say something wrong or not.”
Ultimately, Bragg aims to help clients feel comfortable enough to make mistakes so that they can figure out what their main deficiencies are, and she can come up with ways to address them. She takes an inventory of “hard skills” (i.e., grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary) and “soft skills” (i.e., how to use language mechanics to achieve a desired outcome).
In time, several rehearsal-like sessions emerge. These are based on anticipating questions and, then, preparing not only what to say in response, but also how to say it. Many questions can be gleaned from online videos that help you prepare for interviews related to specific career positions.
“I’m offering an alternative to what many people do, which is prepare for an interview on their own,” Bragg said. “Then they get to the day of the interview, and it’s a big shock. It’s an incredibly high-stakes setting in which they’re talking to people they’ve never spoken to before — and in a language they don’t speak very often. They are apt to get a deer-in-the-headlights feeling.”
Bragg is intent on growing Web Dev English for many years to come, noting that she can work wherever there’s a wifi signal. She takes a great deal of satisfaction in helping someone like one of her first students, a Brazilian, move to a new job in Toronto with his wife and child.
“I love helping people start a better life for themselves and their families,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.”