I clearly remember seven years ago when I came across "Seven secrets for ESL learners" on English Club. The information was so excellent and impressive that I wrote an Email to Mr.Josef Essberger, the founder of EC. Although my writing was not so good, he kindly read it and humbly responded. I could not imagine one day I can easily interview him, and as usual he accpetd my request right away and humbly responded. Here is the interview:
1-There is a photo on your page, the photo of the first computer that you used for EC, so how did you come up to create EC?
I had just discovered the Internet. I was teaching English in Paris at the time, and doing some translation work for a client who wanted to work through the Internet. So that forced me to learn about the world wide web, which in Europe was pretty new at the time. As soon as I saw the Internet, it kind of clicked in my mind that here was this fantastic new medium for the distribution of information and knowledge. I had no idea how it would develop. I don’t think anyone had at that time.
2-At the beginning was it easy to build EC? Was anybody supported you?
Ha! I had one thing going for me: I spoke and taught English. But I knew almost nothing about computers, and even less about the Internet. So the technical side was probably the most difficult. There was a lot to learn – about HTML, and then about various scripts like CGI and PHP. But that was fun and kept my brain active. As for support, no, but over the years we have built up a team of really creative individuals who help in developing EnglishClub in a variety of ways:
3-How many years has EC been built?
I started EnglishClub in 1997.
4-Did you think that you would have one of the best English websites? Because EC is on English as a Second Language best English website list.
I don’t know. I think it’s impossible to try to be “the best”. One should try to be good, or very good, or the best that one can be. If some people consider that to be among the best, then it is very gratifying. But we should always keep trying to improve, and ultimately to think of the user and the user’s needs.
5- Have you ever thought you shouldn't have created it?
NO!!! That idea has never occurred to me. Your question is the first time I have even thought about it. It’s a good question, though.
6-what does success means to you?
In general terms, I think that success means achieving a goal. Logically then, we cannot be successful if we do not have a goal. So having a goal is the first and most important thing. Without a goal, you cannot measure success.
7-How many members do you have already?
About 150,000 in total, but not all members participate in all parts of EnglishClub. For example, MyEnglishClub, which started less than a year ago, has just over 12,000 members. But when you take in newsletter subscribers, forum members, chat room members and so on you get something like 150,000. Those are really active members. It would be more but we are rigorous about cleaning out the database, and we don’t count for instance members whose newsletters bounce back to us because they’ve changed email address. In terms of visitors per month though, we have nearly 2 million. EnglishClub is free access and we don’t force people to join in order to see content.
8 - When you get a negative feedback from your members, how do you deal with it?
Very good question. And yes, we do of course get negative feedback at times. It’s sometimes difficult not to take criticism personally. I know that several forum moderators, who are volunteers and give their time freely, have once or twice been really hurt by “negative feedback”. But in reality we have to be grateful to anyone who writes in with criticism, as long as it’s serious and not abusive. Often they have a valid point and we do what we can to correct the issue as appropriate.
9-How do you feel when you see EC's name on the influential websites like EST as a TOEFL resource studying material?
Good. Very satisfied. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But at the same time, I have to think of and thank all those people who have helped to put it there, and remember that it’s not automatically going to stay there!
10-Would you please describe one of your best memories of EC?
Seeing so much creativity coming from members. For example, first in the ESL Forums where members would create games for each other or write poems, and more lately in MyEnglishClub where members have come up with the most amazing ideas, writing, games, audio and so on. Something else that is very exciting is “The Learning English Video Project” that is currently in production.
11-Would you please describe one of your worst memories of EC?
I think two things, which are kind of related. One is just spam, or attempted fraud. Which unfortunately is a fact of life. It’s sad to think that people spend so much time and effort over something that is ultimately going to get them nowhere but causes so much trouble for others. The other is intolerance, the kind of thing that happens in chat rooms or forums, not just on EnglishClub, when people get abusive with each other without stopping and trying to see the other person’s point of view.
12-What messages do you have for those who have new ideas and want to take action making their dreams come true?
Believe in your dreams. It’s a little bit like the “goal” we were talking about earlier. And like the lyrics from “South Pacific”, that wonderful musical film that came out long before most EnglishClub members were born: “You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true?”
13- How did you learn Thai Language?
By taking some lessons, by using Thai with Thai people, by watching Thai TV. By learning to read and write Thai since it uses its own script.
14-Which topic did you like most when you were a student?
15-Which topic didn't you like when you were a student?
16- What famous figures do you admire most?
17-what is your favorite color?
18- If you were born once again, what kind of job would you choose?
Dear Josef, I very much appreciate for your kindness and taking your time in order to answer my questions.