Hear from Yulia Vrublevskaia, founder of SPEAK Braga. She’s telling us all about going from newcomer to founding a social franchise and an inspirational career change.

How does a Russian end up learning French in Portugal? Hi, I’m Yulia, founder of SPEAK’s chapter here in Braga. My SPEAK journey began in 2018 and I wanted to share that story with you.

I’ve lived in Portugal for five years, as part of a 10-year career in international relationships, commerce, and export trade. For this, I often need to learn new languages and when I came to Braga, the language I needed was French.

Back in Moscow, that’s easy. Find the right language school, pay your money, start learning. But Moscow has twice the population of all Portugal so guess what, it doesn’t work quite the same here.

How hard can it be to find a language school in Portugal?

There were some language schools in Braga, but none of them had a French course at that time of year. The only other option was the local University of Minho. However, if you want to learn a language there, you’d need to wait for a new semester. That basically limits you to one or two openings per year.

So I didn’t find anything… until, luckily, I spotted Facebook ads for SPEAK’s intensive French group right here in the city. I applied, and soon I was sitting in the small garden of an ancient bookshop, learning French with native speakers.

The experience was totally different to learning via an official course at a university. It was simple and fast. I got consistent opportunities to fully immerse myself in the language alongside those who are truly fluent.

This isn’t a chance you often get when you’re a foreigner who isn’t a student, even in a country as friendly as Portugal. Attending different SPEAK events gave me the chance to make new friends far more easily. It was real magic, because everyone at these events is in the same situation; open-minded people with similar objectives.

From learner to leader

I made friends in a very natural, low-pressure way, among both locals and foreigners like myself. This moved me to try out as a SPEAK Buddy, someone responsible for language teaching. Teaching Russian to Portuguese locals was a great experience. It left me so passionate about the SPEAK concept that I became the organisation’s Ambassador in Braga.

This gave me an active role in organising events and promoting them on social media. I was offered the chance to manage the Braga chapter officially in early 2020, and I accepted with no doubt. I knew I could help other newcomers to the city get the same support and sense of community which was so helpful to me.

Secondly, it’s a personal challenge for me as a commercial manager to grow the startup to a level where it can be my full-time job. I’m a strategist at heart, so it’s important to me for SPEAK in Braga to be sustainable, to grow beyond hobby status.

Unfortunately, 2020 had a few surprises for all of us. Due to COVID-19 we had to slow down a bit. But despite all that, I hope to realise all my objectives, to grow SPEAK and offer this amazing opportunity to more of the community here.

Set up your own language group with SPEAK

My story so far is just one of many from those who found their path to helping others learn a language and build a community. Could you do the same?

Whether you’re a newcomer or a native, your area could benefit from providing language tuition and a friendly set of faces. You can be that catalyst for positive change.

Want to learn more? Find out how to take SPEAK to your city.

Do you want to read more about founders? We suggest you give "Welcome to SPEAK London! (Meet the 4 founders)" or "Bringing SPEAK to Castelo Branco, Portugal" a read.

Author: Yulia Vrublevskaia, Braga.

Originally from Russia, with a Master’s degree in Business Management. Yulia has worked for five years helping Portuguese companies export their products worldwide. In 2020, she left the position of Export Manager to found SPEAK’s social franchise project in Braga.


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