Jennifer Whelan: Teacher, Journalist, and Daily News Writer

Daily News is one of the materials our students love the most. As the name implies, this set of materials allows students to stay up to date on current events while they study English. 

Today, we’ll go behind the scenes and talk to Jennifer Whelan, who has been writing Daily News articles for the past two years!

We’ll get to hear about her work now as well as her previous experiences being a journalist, learning French, and teaching English in different countries.

Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in Dublin, Ireland where I did my degree in journalism and French. After that, I moved to France to teach English in a rural public school, and then I decided to make a total change, and moved to Istanbul to teach as well. 

I returned to Ireland and became a reporter for a supermarket industry magazine called Checkout. I later became an editor.

I liked working as both a journalist and in education, so when I saw a job opportunity that would let me have the best of both worlds, I went for it.

Sounds like Daily News is a great fit for you! 

Definitely! My training in journalism taught me the rules of writing a strong piece of news content. This ensures that my Daily News articles are engaging and full of clear information. After all, clarity is key to good news writing.

And my teaching experience gives me valuable insights into which parts of English can be tricky for learners. Since I mainly prepare articles for intermediate students, these insights really come in handy.

I also love feeling that my articles are genuinely useful to someone because they are helping them to learn. It’s so rewarding.

What do you feel is the biggest difference between your previous work and your work now?

As a journalist, I only really reported on business news. But for Engoo’s Daily News, I could be covering almost any topic imaginable, which is fun.

I still like to write about business and food the most, but I’ve really enjoyed writing articles for our “Language and Education” category. The expressions articles are just really fun, and I enjoy learning about what’s going on in the education industry. 

What do you feel is the greatest strength of our learning materials? 

What I like about our materials is that they use real, practical English. I’m sure that our students can take the vocabulary and phrases they learn from us and use them anywhere in the English speaking world. 

I’m sure our students will want to hear about your experience learning and teaching languages. What made you interested in majoring in French? 

I always knew I wanted to major in a language along with any other degree I pursued. 

On a practical level, a second or third language on your CV is always welcome. I chose French because it was one I had started learning in primary school and continued in secondary school. But I also loved French food and culture! 

Jennifer in the Alsace region of France

What has been your experience learning other languages?

I love languages, and a lot of people think I must find learning them very easy. That’s simply not true; I actually find the grammar and rules of different languages really difficult to get into my head — but I’m good at remembering vocabulary. 

My French was only okay by the time I got to university, but my level wasn’t much more than intermediate until I studied in France for a semester. I learn better through conversation than I do being in a traditional classroom. And then after moving to a small French town, where nobody spoke English, I finally started to feel fluent. 

Do you have any tips for memorizing vocabulary?

If you learn a new word, try to use it as many times as you can. I also kept a notebook of new French words when I was in France. If a friend said something I hadn’t heard before, I asked them to explain it and write it down. 

Out of curiosity, did you also have to learn Irish?

So, there are some regions where people speak Irish as a first language. However, in most of Ireland, people speak English at home and I did too, so it’s my first language.

We learn both in school, but unfortunately my Irish isn’t great at all!

What was teaching English in Turkey and France like?

Turkey and France were different in many ways. For one thing, I was teaching teenagers in France, but mainly adults in Turkey! 

In both countries, however, the big challenge was in getting students to stop using their native language in the classroom. And in both, I found that once we could do that, the whole class learned faster. 

I think it’s okay to use your own language to translate when you first start studying a new one. But as you get stronger, you should try not to rely on translating and really immerse yourself in the new language. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the extra effort.

Jennifer at the Strait of Istanbul

What advice do you have for students who use Daily News lessons?

I think they should choose articles that feel right for their level and work on them with our teachers. But I also think they should re-read articles they’ve used in lessons themselves for extra practice, and not be afraid to try reading higher level pieces either. 

Do you have any final advice for our students?

It can be a bit embarrassing when you are trying to speak a different language and you make mistakes. When I first lived in France, it was frustrating when I couldn’t make myself understood.

But people usually appreciate it when you try your best and are very kind about it. A lot of the time, people are happy to see someone try to communicate with them in their language. 

You’ll never regret learning another language, so even if it’s hard, keep going!