illustration of two people

Art by David Sandoval

H&Phonics Provides a Unique Language-Learning Opportunity

March 01, 2021


H&P created a company-wide initiative where employees around the world can connect and learn new languages.

Being able to work from anywhere, at any time. Collaborating with team members around the globe. Practicing your Spanish? 

H&P added another benefit for employees through H&Phonics, an opportunity for coworkers to virtually connect and learn a new language.

Setting up H&Phonics

H&P’s remote global structure operates in eight time zones, relying on platforms such as Microsoft Teams to collaborate and build company culture. Our employees represent multiple countries and languages, offering a uniquely diverse perspective that directly impacts our clients.

This very remote structure made it easy to set up H&Phonics. Interested H&Pers quickly joined the channel, providing info on the language(s) they speak and want to learn, as well as when they can virtually meet.

Spanish and English are currently the two most sought-after languages that people want to practice, as well as the two most spoken. The H&Phonics group includes fluent Greek and Mandarin participants as well.

Centering connection and flexibility in learning a language

The goal for H&Phonics members is to partner up and practice language skills. Each group works together to find a learning style that works best for them.

Bohan Chen, a native Mandarin speaker and UX/UI Designer, and Ryan Cayer, an English speaker and the Director of Operations, each have some language goals of their own.

“We’re using Duolingo to practice a different language,” explains Bohan. “Ryan is working on Mandarin, and I’m trying to study Japanese and Spanish.” Ryan was hoping to go to China for the Olympics, which prompted his interest in learning Mandarin.

Another pair consists of Lizeth Daza, a Colombian-based Account Admin (LATAM Ops), and Emily Wottreng, a Copywriter in the US. Lizeth was born and raised in Bogotá, but spent two years working as an au pair in the US. “I want to feel more comfortable speaking in another language. Sometimes I want to express so much more in English but I can’t find the right words, which is why I want to improve my English,” she said (in perfect English, might we add). Emily echoed similar sentiments. As a former elementary school teacher with a majority of Mexican American students, she used Spanish daily when communicating with students and families.

“I lost a ton of my Spanish knowledge since leaving the classroom,” said Emily. “One of my goals has been to work remotely and live in South America to get that knowledge back.” Working around time zone differences, Emily and Lizeth set up a video call. “I’ll admit I was a bit groggy for our first early morning meeting,” said Emily. “That quickly went away when I started talking with Liz. I was floored by how much fun Liz and I had, and how great it was to practice Spanish again! It stunned me that after working at H&P for only a week, the H&Phonics opportunity came about. It basically felt like ‘Oh, that dream you’ve had for the past two years? Let’s help make that happen.’”

A benefit that meets a growing need

The start of the global COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge uptick in people wanting to learn new languages. Duolingo reported a 108% increase in new users around the globe from March 9 to March 30 of 2020. Babbel, a language app similar to Duolingo, also reported an increase in subscribers due to the pandemic.

Suffice to say, utilizing time at home to learn a new language (and undoubtedly dreaming of international travel) has shown to be a common trend. H&Phonics takes this a step further by encouraging connection across the company and around the world.

Paul Touchette, a Copywriter from the US, shared how H&Phonics and H&P inspired him on his own language journey. “I’ve always dreamed of learning to speak French but felt intimidated and unsure of where to begin. That was until I saw just how many people raised their hand to participate in H&Phonics. If they could all learn a new language, so could I.”