Let’s Talk Anew is one of our traditionally published educational books, used in schools mainly in the Czech Republic, but also Slovakia. Below is the story behind its publication, also giving its rationale.
In the Right Place at the Right Time
The year was around 1995. My husband and I were living in the Czech Republic and teaching English. Only a few short years before, the Iron Curtain had fallen. Everyone was learning English – it had replaced the compulsory Russian in all schools. We were grateful for the opportunity to teach English – even at the university – though some of our students were at only beginner to lower intermediate level. In those days, it was easy for native English speakers to get jobs teaching English at all school levels – from elementary school through to university and adult education. Also, most of the former Russian teachers were now in crash-course education and ongoing training as English teachers.
It was also a time when visionary, enterprising Czechs began fledgling businesses, some of which are still doing well. One such person was Jiri Fraus who started under his name a small publishing house for language learning materials.
From our teaching, we had some ideas for a possible English conversation book and so decided to contact several educational publishers with a query letter. Fraus responded by return mail – which usually means rejection, but in this case, to our pleasant surprise, the response was positive! They requested specific subject and chapter proposals, which we submitted. About a year later, we visited Fraus Publishing in Plzen (west of Prague) on a cold winter’s day to discuss our proposal. Several of the small staff including the director gathered around a table and we all hammered out the details of the format, content and graphics.
From that meeting, Let’s Talk was born – a black and white English conversation book with photos and drawings that finally came on the market about three years later, in 1999. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted at how well the book sold. Over 60,000 copies were purchased and the book was used in schools all over the Czech Republic and in neighbouring Slovakia.
Time went on and we found ourselves back in Australia. One day, ten years after the publication of Let’s Talk, Fraus Publishing contacted us again. They asked if we were interested in revising and updating our original book! The publishing company had grown and was occupying an impressive three-storey building with an educational supplies shop on the ground floor, and working in partnership with a German publishing house. (Their website is http://www.fraus.com/)
We gladly accepted the opportunity and dived into reworking the book – all from the comfort of our home. As a result, a new version of our first book was created, this time in blue-green duo-tone, and entitled Let’s Talk Anew. We’re grateful for the moderate sales, realizing that the English as a Second Language (ESL) market has totally changed with lots of competition as far as learning resources.
Today, English teaching in the Czech Republic is very different from those first few years after the Iron Curtain fell, almost exactly thirty years ago. The Czech young people we taught have gone on to become fine English teachers in their own right. The book market for English learning has a rich diversity of quality books – alongside valuable online tools, undreamt of when we produced Let’s Talk.
Our vision for Let’s Talk had been twofold: Firstly, to help young people learn the skills for conversing in English, and secondly, to share with them timeless values for life in a rapidly changing world. The same vision is still reflected in Let’s Talk Anew. It is our hope that students using our book will not only find the book beneficial for mastering English conversation on a wide variety of themes, but also be helped in making sound choices in life that will bring them well-being and contentment on their life’s journey.