Megan Miller is a leader in Spanish <> English teaching and bespoke habit-based language learning. Ever since discovering the worlds beyond words as a child, Megan has dedicated her efforts to mastering Spanish, English, and how to create lasting habits to improve and maintain language skills. She is the CEO of Aprovechar Language Solutions whose mission is to empower those in need of a bilingual voice.
Megan Miller, CEO, Spanish Coach, ESL Teacher
What inspired you to start Aprovechar Language Solutions, LLC, and what is the mission and vision behind your business?
I started Aprovechar because the need for Spanish and English-based education for adults has increased tenfold. We used to learn language in a very formal, lecture-based environment, and after working in the corporate eLearning space for a few years, I wanted to shake things up and do things differently.
The official mission of Aprovechar is to empower those in need of a bilingual voice: those who perhaps haven’t been able to trust their voice in Spanish or English, and need additional confidence or mindset tips; those who haven’t exercised their voice in Spanish or English, and need practical routines and habits; or those who have a tangible need to learn either Spanish or English, and want help in that learning journey.
The vision of Aprovechar is really to ameliorate that weariness or hopelessness that a busy adult, perhaps with a child or family, who’s working and feeling pulled into different directions, might feel. Learning a language is hard work, and it takes a village (or class, or cohort) to make sure that everyone’s motivation stays in the locked and upright position. When planned appropriately, learning and practicing Spanish can stay fun, impactful, simple, and consistent.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is to help people learn to love learning as much as I do – not because they have problems that need “fixing”, but rather because learning requires curiosity. I may teach the same concept a few different ways, and people will choose to take with them what they think is important. That makes me curious about teaching, and I truly hope it makes them curious about learning.
Overall, I’m incredibly lucky. My clients get personalized learning tips through songs, music, movies, dancing, meditations, events, classes, and their own self-study; and I get to have fun while imparting real-world knowledge and seeing those lightbulb moments from my clients.
What sets Aprovechar Language Solutions, LLC apart from your competitors? Are there any unique approaches or methodologies you employ?
Before I’m a teacher, I’m a student: and this informs where, when, how, and why I teach what I do. I’ve completed the rigorous courses of study for my Spanish degree, learned through immersion, and before I ever thought of learning Spanish, I learnt English in a formal environment. I’ve also done the apps, maintained the language, lost it over a few months of disuse, and had to claw my way back to feeling moderately adequate before finding my confianza (trust and confidence) in the language.
All that is to say, I’ve been there: as a child, as a teen, as a young, wide-eyed adult, and as a bit more cynical and busier adult. This informs how I set myself apart from any competition, whether that’s one-on-one programs with an app such as iTalki or through the apps.
The first thing that I do differently is a heavy reliance on real-world language. When we first start working together, I want to know all about you. Where are you looking to employ Spanish or English? Is it a formal or informal environment? Can you give me examples, and can we start saying and practicing a few phrases from the first session? While formal learning plans may break vocabulary into “themes” (sports talk, adventure talk, conversational phrases), I like to partition vocabulary around the beginning, middle, and end of various realistic scenarios. For a keynote speaker, that might look like beginning their speech or thinking of and translating questions and answers. For a busy employee who needs to have business meetings in Spanish, that might be the icebreakers and small talk, followed by presenting on their topic with questions and answers, and then saying goodbye.
Real-world language can also include a lot of cultural nuances. I bring in some interviews, songs, and sometimes guest speakers so that my clients can feel comfortable in their target language. Humans use language to communicate and make sense of our thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and it’s important to spend time on the “human” side of us. Having things like breathing activities, warm-up activities, affirmations or validations, and a low-risk, high-reward classroom make it so that the confidence we sometimes lack as adults has time to grow and shine. It can be difficult to judge yourself and your linguistic ability, and I take the role of cheerleader, coach, and an outside point of reference very seriously. Growth and learning can happen in fits and spurts, and it’s important to appreciate the valleys and enjoy the peaks.
I also have done quite a bit of research into neuroscience as it relates to habit work and routine creation. Humans thrive on routine, yet we don’t necessarily pride ourselves on it to avoid being “boring”. Some novelty is required – it’s a matter of knowing the formulas to see what needs to stay consistent and what needs to change. And the lovely part is that all of us are unique, and respond to different habit triggers and rewards differently. To learn and maintain a language as an adult, a consistent practice habit built around a routine that continues to give your brain those feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin makes sure that you succeed in learning.
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?
Traditional education at the moment is going through a large upheaval, and has been for years – some may even say decades. As I seek to understand the gaps in my clients’ understanding and then solve them, I don’t fit neatly inside the “traditional” box. This means that I don’t share a lot of educators’ woes: jumping through bureaucratic red tape, teaching to a specific test or statewide requirement, or being required to handle overbearing or absentee parents or guardians.
With that, education is all about learning: and if there’s one thing that I could change about how, when, where, and why we learn, it’s that there is NO one-size-fits-all approach to education. We all respond to different stimuli individually, and our uniqueness needs to be celebrated instead of tamped down, ignored, or avoided. This is why Personalized Learning Plans are paramount to how I work and teach. I want to involve all parties, and make sure everyone has a workable solution. When we collaborate with curiosity, the opportunities are endless.
Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.
When I was living abroad in Madrid, there were a lot of thoughts and sparks that came out of that experience: the first being my business name, Aprovechar. It’s something my host mom would always tell me, and it became a mantra: aprovechar. Make the most of whatever there is to come. Take advantage of the tools and resources out there.
The second is the realization that you can be located in the most beautiful place, and otherwise look “perfectly curated” on the outside, yet if you don’t take care of your mind, none of that matters. In order to truly aprovechar life, we all need to take care of ourselves, inside and out. Some of the happiest people I met had a village bread oven and worked hard outside every day… sooner or later, those mental monsters will make themselves known, and it’s important to know how to handle them.
The third is the belief that we all have an inherent value. Immigrants don’t upend their lives and travel miles and miles to take away jobs or to fulfill any of those vilified narratives. It’s hard work being an immigrant, and even with my cushion of a student visa, the infrastructure and supportive bubble of the school, and white privilege, I struggled assimilating there and struggled even more so assimilating back to the U.S. Those who have moved across country lines are braver than we give them credit for. This wholeheartedly drives one of my core values that we all deserve to understand each other, and to feel understood ourselves.