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Meeting Josef Essberger in Toronto, Canada

Today’s technology allows journalists, webmasters, teachers, and a variety of contract workers to telecommute from all over the world. I’ve been working virtually with EnglishClub founder Josef Essberger for over 11 years.

In the past decade, Josef and I have worked remotely on a wide variety of EnglishClub projects and developments, including the Learning English Video Project, This Week in History, and Listen to News. We also developed and continue to maintain EC’s social network, MyEnglishClub, which has grown to 115,000 members in the past few years. We correspond daily via email, and have spoken on the phone just once. Occasionally we exchange packages and large files via snail mail. This week, we met in person in Toronto, Canada!

Tara Benwell and Josef Essberger in Toronto, Canada

Tara Benwell and Josef Essberger in Toronto

When I heard that Josef was coming to Canada this spring for a personal trip, I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet him. We enjoyed lunch together on Yonge Street this past Friday afternoon and took a subway ride down to the CN Tower for a photo opportunity.

Josef and Tara on Front Street near the CN Tower

Josef and Tara on Front Street near the CN Tower

We learned that Toronto Blue Jay fans on their way to a baseball game were the most willing photographers. It was fun giving Josef and his brother a pronunciation lesson about Toronto street names. They also asked for tips on traffic and road rules. Though Britain apparently has a “motorway” that’s known as the biggest parking lot in the world, they had yet to experience 16 lanes of the 401 (the four-oh-one) during rush hour. Let’s hope traffic stays light on the “highways” as they make their way to the nation’s capital of Ottawa!

In addition to getting to know each other a bit better, and chatting briefly about site development, we spent much of our time comparing and observing language and cultural differences. (A cheese plate after lunch?) British and Canadian English are not as similar as you may think, and it has always been useful to have both perspectives while working on EnglishClub resources.

In many ways, other than spelling, Canadian English (and culture) is closer to American English. Interestingly, neither of us knew exactly what an Americano was. While I told Josef that his beverage was half espresso, half coffee, I have since learned that it is actually part espresso, part hot water. (Sorry, Josef!) Regardless, we enjoyed a few cups together, knowing that it may be another decade before the opportunity arises again.

While it was wonderful to meet in person, we found that talking shop wasn’t the priority in our face-to-face meeting. Distance and time zones have never been a problem for the EnglishClub team. Team members from around the world have helped make EnglishClub what it is today. Currently, singer-songwriter Jonathan Taylor is working on EnglishClub songs from his recording studio in Bulgaria. Post production work happens in Canada and Thailand before being published for the world.

Our MyEC moderators are other important contributors whom we’ve never met in person. They live in various corners of the world, including the Philippines, Japan, and the UK. In fact, members from all over the globe work on their English together in EC’s chat room, forums, and blogs. Despite their physical distance, they develop strong relationships and enjoy exploring the language together from afar. It’s always fun to see photos of our members meeting each other in person. Have you met a MyEC friend in person? Be sure to share your experience in the MyEC photo gallery.

Until we meet again…

  • Jean Catandijan says:

    I am a Filipina and a secondary school teacher in English here in the Philippines. I have used lots of exercises, tests, etc., from EC in my classes. That is why I am thankful to find EnglishClub.

    I hope to meet you too Ms. Tara and Sir Josef someday…how I wish, though I know it is impossible…’hope that the Lord Jesus will make a way.

    God bless!

  • Albert Liam says:

    I’m a Chinese and a universty school student in Guangzhou. I know,although I am a universty school student, my English is really poor. But, I really want to learn English well. I don’t know what should I do. So, I join in the EnglishClub, and really thanks to EC that I can find in here.

    And then, I hope to meet you too Ms. Tara and Mir Josef oneday how I wish. I think, if someone believe that he can do it,he can. All right? Ok,thanks.

    Best wish.

  • Fereshteh says:

    I,m one of EC,s member,I’m. So thankful your team for your effortless learning,especially those emails you sent me,up to now,are very useful for me.I,m waiting your Emails every day
    My appriciate

  • Jonathan says:

    What a lovely read. So glad you two have finally met!

  • Tara Benwell says:

    Hi Jean,

    Thanks for your note! We’re happy that you enjoy EC’s materials for your classes. Are you on MyEC? If yes, please share a link to your profile page.


  • Zakumi says:

    Great to read your write up on your meeting with Josef, Tara! Very nice to fill us in with some ‘unofficial’ business between the two of you; it must have been exciting as the two of you have worked together for so long but have only met once! And thanks for sharing the pics – that one under the Matisse signpost is my favourite as it shows the ‘real’ Josef (without head covering!) and his lovely assistant (haha, forgive the flattery, but it’s really unintentional; I just like being frank!). Those half or partly Americanos smell nice (as long as it has espresso in it)!

    Btw, the news about Jonathan Taylor’s EC songs sound really exciting! Currently I’m using English-4U for my music lessons, but if that’s going to come from EC in future, what a pleasure! I hope you may consider working out lessons with each song …?!

    Best wishes to the two of you.

  • Bimal says:

    Dear Sir or Madam,
    I, from the beginning wanted to improve my English because I believe that English is not just a language in the modern world, but a skill or a tool to be a humble member of the globe. We are living in a connected world, so we all need a common platform for the communication; the English language has been able to satisfy this requirement to a greater extent. I’m not going to compare educational websites on the internet because it is not ethical as far as my personal philosophy is concerned. However, as a regular surfer on the internet, I have realized that English Club is a productive website, and there is a huge space within it to keep the learners of different sorts occupied methodically. I know that my endeavor is not to be a Shakespeare but to be a global citizen who can successfully communicate with other citizens in the planet; in this journey, English Club clearly supported me in many ways to get my English competency improved.
    I’m from a farming community, so agriculture is in my blood; with this reality, I studied Zoology, Botany, Chemistry and Physics for my university entrance exam in my mother tongue; but later I got a number of opportunities to work with internationally recognized botanists plus agriculturists, in that new context, I understood of what was the role of English as a skill or a tool? Though we agree or not, the English language has become a lifestyle in the contemporary world. As a nonnative English speaker, I think I have to speak English with my identity, but it doesn’t mean to violate the rules in the English language. Native speakers follow different accents in speaking, but in the today’s world, the English language is globalized, so we have to turn towards global English. Global English belongs to all who make use it for living on the planet.
    I salute both of you!
    Have long life for English Club!

    Good Luck!
    Bimal-a global citizen.

  • Noaslpls says:

    I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet with my two EC (though I think the room was known as ESL Chat Room, but now is known as 1997 Chat Room) friends. One was from Vietnam and another was from my own country.
    I only met once with the Vietnamese lady, but met a few times with the lady from my own Country though I lost contact with her when she went to further her study in Holland. The experiences were really amazing, and I know that virtual friendship can be translated into real friendship.
    A few months back, I managed to persuade the Vietnamese lady to re-enter EC, though due to her work commitment she seldom be able to be in EC. I hope the Malaysian lady still keeps my phone number, and one of these days that I will receive a surprise call from her.

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Thanks for sharing your related experience! It’s great to hear that you got to meet a few MyEC friends. We should start a photo album called MyEC Meet-Ups!

  • Bernd Kohl says:

    I wished, I would have been with you.

  • Maya says:

    Glad to know about the meeting of two resources of English Club through a nice and enriched write up. Thanks for the sharing.

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