Manon in Strasbourg and Maxime in Laval ask Frank a few questions.

Manon Yes. Do you prefer your question, Maxime, or not?

Maxime Yes, I have two, three, I have six questions.

Manon Okay, I have two questions.

Frank Okay, so someone has to do the introduction. Ladies first.

Manon Okay, so hello everyone. Today, me and Maxime are going to interview Frank about his memories and all his life.

Maxime So these last weeks, Manon and me interviewed themselves, so we have decided to interview Frank to change.

Frank And I was not aware of this. I did not see this coming. But okay, I’m open to it. Fire away.

Maxime Okay. So my first question is very simple. Where did you learn to speak English and how?

Frank That is a very simple question. The answer is a little more complicated. So as people probably know, I was born in Germany. But I do not feel German. I started learning English as a baby in Japan when I lived in Japan. And then after living in Japan, we moved to Australia. And that is where I learned my English. So I learned English just like you learned French. It was for me my everyday language. I grew up in Australia. I lived in Australia for 14, 15 years. I went to school in Australia. It was and still is for me my first language. And that’s how I did it. Just like living in France for you or others living in Germany, I went and grew up with the English language around me.

Manon  And so you say that you’re German because your parents are German?

Frank Yes. My parents are German. Yes. My father is dead now. But my mother is German. We were all born in Germany. But because of my father’s work, they went overseas.

Maxime Okay. Second one. What does English mean to you?

Frank English means to me, it is my language. Now, it is a little bit more complicated because it is not my language It’s not my mother tongue. Because technically that should be German because my mother was German and therefore it should be German for me. But because I learned English like any child does, I dream in English, I think in English, it is for me my language. It is the language I love. It is the language I work in. My first marriage was to a woman who comes from Ireland. We spoke English. I lived in England. We married in Ireland. Mary is English. My second wife, Mary is English. We speak English. It is the language of my culture, even though I do not have a British or an English passport. And that makes it very confusing.

Manon It is very interesting because you dream in English, but sometimes you dream in German.

Frank Yes, I have actually, one day I woke up from a dream and I realized I dreamt in English, in German and in French in the same dream. But I cannot remember what the dream was, but I just remember thinking, yeah, okay, that was also French in there somewhere. So it’s confusing.

Maxime I never asked me the questions.

Manon Yes, personally I dream in French because it’s my mother.

Frank Yes, it’s your mother’s language. But for me, because I work in the three languages, primarily everything is in English.

Maxime So you say that it’s your native language, your culture, etc. But we had a discussion with Ismar when Ismar shared a video about what is English for people in the world. So what is your opinion about this video? What is English for different people in the world?

Frank It is now in the video with Jack Ma from Alibaba. So for me, it is the language that I feel at home in, but because I have been teaching people to communicate in English for 30 years, I also know that for many people, like for you and for Manon, it is not so much the culture, it is more a tool to communicate. And you look at the language in terms of grammar, vocabulary, that for you is English and that is how you were taught English at school and now in your universities, etc. Maybe it becomes a little bit less dogmatic, but certainly you speak, at school, at the lycées, you learned English from the grammar and the structure point of view. And that is correct. That’s what you should be doing because grammar is important. But because my life involves three countries, so France, Germany and England, these are the three countries that are constantly in my life. And so I can understand when French and German people make everything complicated because French and German are complicated languages compared to English. And on the other side, I can understand why French and German people want to learn English grammar and not think about the vocabulary because that is what is important. Because they think if I understand the grammar, then I can communicate in English. So that is the language part.

But connected with that is the way people do things. And people who speak English, so Americans, British people, the Anglophiles around the world, they like to be pragmatic, and they like to make mistakes and they like to experiment. And if it goes wrong, OK, it’s not a problem because English is not a perfect language. English is a language that was put together with many, many different influences. And there was actually a time before the Norman invasion, I think, or even after the Norman invasion around 1066, where old French and old Northern languages from Denmark and Sweden and Norway, that area, Scandinavia, the influences were so strong that English almost disappeared. It was reduced to one very small area around the city of Winchester in the southwest of England. And then the politicians and the king of the time decided, no, this is not good. And then they started fighting back to save English. And then it grew from there. And then over time with the British Empire, English was spoken in other countries. And now in the 20th century, with the dominance of the United States, English became the global language because it is associated with the power, the strongest power. And the question you need to ask yourselves, maybe not your generation, but that of your children is, is it still important to learn English or should everybody start learning Chinese? Because that is the next power.

Manon Chinese is more complicated than English because it’s another alphabet, another grammar, and everything is different.

Frank Yeah. And for that reason, there is a chance that English will survive because Chinese is so totally different. But the future will be with China.

Maxime I always learned that Chinese expressions come from English. That’s what I learned at school.

Frank Really, that would be news for me, maybe in modern Chinese, because China was a closed country for thousands of years. And it was only when Marco Polo traveled to China did he start bringing back some of the Chinese influences and ideas. But even then it took a long time. But it shows how languages move in this day and age.

And to get back to this thing about Jack Ma, one of the big problems that my industry faces is using artificial intelligence to say that, oh, I do not need to speak another language because I can use artificial intelligence to communicate. Technically, that is correct. On a technical level, that is correct. But to understand a person emotionally and to be able to work with him or her, you still need to learn the language because in the language you understand how people do things and why they do it.

Maxime So, for example, if you are on holiday in another country and you just have to communicate a few words with others, you can use the AI. You have to collaborate or do some project or speak aloud with different people. You have to speak correctly and to understand the emotions, etc. You have a very good communication with these people.

Manon I don’t agree with you because when you’re in another country and you need to talk with people, you don’t have time to take your phone and ask an AI. It’s not natural and you don’t have time. So you need to learn a language to speak with people. AI can replace this one.

Frank You are right, Manon, but I know because I look at this very closely, this development. Facebook are developing or have released an app whereby if you say something in French, another person will understand it and the translation is instant. It’s maybe one or two seconds delay and that’s all.

Maxime Now we have a lot of new software for that.

Frank But, and I know because I worked on several international projects with some companies, I know from experience that if you work in an international environment and I think both of you want to do that, then speaking English with your colleagues from other countries is important because then it is quicker, it is more detailed and you understand why a colleague from another country does something in a special way that you don’t understand or that is different to what you know. And so you have to start working together to solve the problem and do your job. And artificial intelligence at the moment cannot do this. It may in the future, but artificial intelligence cannot replace the human emotion. But I could be wrong.

Maxime Okay, Manon, do you have a question? Because my next one is on another subject.

Manon Okay, so you grew up in a different country. So you were in a different school. So what’s the difference between German school or English school? Because I know the system is very different from country to country.

Frank So my experience was indeed very different. And to explain it to you, I have two equivalent of baccalaureate. So I went to school in Australia. And in Sydney, I got the Australian baccalaureate, which is called Higher School Certificate. And with that, I went to university before I came back to Europe. And the certificate was not accepted in Germany, because the subjects were too low. And I had to then go back to do two and a half years of schooling in Germany to get my German abitur. And even then, I could only go to three types of schools. And I went to a commercial high school, a Wirtschaftsgymnasium in Germany, with a focus on economics, macro and micro economics. Yeah, and the difference was, in Australia, we were encouraged to go out and find information. So our teachers told us, with some subjects, in other subjects, it’s not possible, but in things like English and literature and economics and so on, we were told, go out and find the information. Go to the school library, go to your local library, go to the big state library in the city centre, do some research, find your information, write a document, write a report. And of course, we did that, but we just copied and collated. Of course, it was different then. We had to write copy, we had to write by hand. So there was the book and there was my notebook and I just copied from there to there, writing everything. So that is how I learned a lot of things in Australia. And I still have a very thick project that I did on the Vietnam War. And I researched everything from communism to the Vietnam War. It took us six months to do that. I come to Germany, and it is a culture shock because all of a sudden I am not taught how to think, but the teachers push knowledge and information into my brain and I am supposed to know how this and I’m supposed to memorize all of this. And that was hell. I did not like that. So my German abitur was actually much worse than my Australian higher school certificate. Because the systems were so totally different. And 50 years later, I appreciate the Australian system more because it prepared me better for the future.

And when I started doing some work with people from the terminal to prepare them for their baccalaureate in English, it was difficult because they memorized, they learned their scripts off by heart and said, okay, I have these four notions, I must talk about this, this, this or this, and I will recite my text to you. And when I asked a question, they could not answer it because it was packaged in a document. And that’s all they knew. So they did not learn how to think. And that is a problem.

Manon To be honest, I have a problem with my connection. So I don’t understand your entire answers.

Frank You can read the transcript later, Manon.

Manon Okay, so I don’t have an answer about your story.

Frank Okay, no problem.

Maxime So next question. So what were you doing before Brida?

Frank Before Brida, I worked in my own, I owned my own language school. I had some very big contracts. One of them was with what is now Mercedes Benz. It was then called DaimlerChrysler. And my biggest contract was to help teach people English in the truck, in the engine factory of DaimlerChrysler in Mannheim in Germany. And I also had a very big contract with what was then called Bombardier. They made trains. It’s now part of Alstom here in France. And so I taught English and I had my own school with up to 35 trainers. So I had a very big organization. And I taught people how to communicate in English. So it was not the grammar. It was partly the grammar, but they had a problem and they had to explain the problem to somebody else. So it was more communication and to explain something, to describe something, to do something using English. And I did that until the end of 2005. In 2011, I started Breda because that was when I lost all the other contracts. But that was when I started Brida in 2011, 2012, something like that.

Maxime And so you, your English career. So, and which type of people you learn English in these companies? So to all the employees or just a manager or?

Frank So what I did, what I did was my team of trainers would teach the employees. And I worked with the management and the senior management of these companies. And we would talk about their day to day work, their problems, what went good, what went not so good. And so I had a very deep insight. I had a very deep understanding of how the truck factory in Mannheim worked because I spoke with all the management. And I had a very deep insight in what Bombardier was doing because I worked with management in Mannheim, in Zurich, in Kassel, in northern Germany. So I was more a consultant, almost a communication and language consultant to these people. Yeah. And it was a very interesting, it was a very interesting period.

Manon And to complete Maxime’s question, why would you decide to create Brida? Because it’s not a typical thing.

Maxime That’s my next question. Tell us about the creation of Breda.

Frank So the answer is very simple. The contract with Bombardier came to an end. It was not expected. I had another contract with a smaller company and that company went bankrupt. So in the space of about six months, I lost 80% of my business. And then I decided to have a heart attack, increase cardiac. And that was in 2015. So I got my dates earlier wrong, but in 2015, I had not a major heart attack, but I had a heart attack. And it changed my life. And then I decided to, well, I had nothing left. In the summer of 2015, I had a blank piece of paper and I decided, okay, what are we going to do now? And I started working with children. It was completely different. I had no experience with it. And you know, the room that I work from, you both have been here. So imagine this room, there are two walls and the children drew a huge picture of a town. And what they did was they explained to me what they drew. So they drew a zoo. So they drew, they explained all the animals. They drew their houses, and they explained the rooms and the furniture, et cetera. It was very simple. Yeah, this is the living room. This is the bedroom. This is the bed. It was simple. And then the parents saw this gigantic picture and they said, what is that? And I said, that’s your children learning English. Do you want to do this? And they said, yes. And then I had adults, yeah, 40, 50-year-old adults drawing pictures of their houses with their rooms. And then I decided that I would create little towns. Then the groups, I had seven or eight groups of people from Wissembourg and the surrounding villages, and they all drew their villages. And there were two nurses from the hospital in Wissembourg called Brigitte and Daniel. And they drew a town which then was called Breda. And they even drew a map of Breda and I still have the map today. Yeah. And I decided to develop this idea. So everybody then worked in the same group and in Breda. So we created this town, we created stories, et cetera. And then it got very complicated, and I stopped doing it and I did something else with these people. And then another client who lives here in Cleebourg, who has been coming to me for eight years, she talked about her town and Breda and everything. She had a town called Happy Town and we talked about this to somebody else. And I thought, hmm, let’s do this again.

And then I started Brida. And three years ago, so Breda this month will become three years old. So the Breda as you know it, the social network site that I have created will be three years old this month. And I decided to do it this way. I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know what to do. I just somehow started. And it is now that what we have today. Yeah. So it was basically a heart attack and children that were the start of what we have today. And it all happened back in 2015.

Maxime Okay. And do you see an evolution in Brida? So do you want to develop even more the social media?

Frank Yes. I’m actually looking at that at the moment because personally at the moment I have reached capacity. There’s not much more I can do. So what I am looking for is to find other freelance trainers in other countries so that we can create a cooperative and let Brida be steered by all of the teachers so that a teacher in another country can teach his or her clients and access the Café Conversations and can do what you do. Yeah, they can do that with their clients. And then maybe we can get everybody to speak together so that you can speak with somebody in another country like we will do next week. Expand that. So yes, that is the development I want to do over the next few years.

Maxime Okay. So different clients from different teachers and integrate in Breda? Yeah. Okay. So do you pick up and have a discussion with a lot of other people and a real social media platform for more people?

Frank Yeah, a real social media platform, but one without algorithms and one without advertising. Because that is what Breda is. So there are no algorithms in Breda and there is no advertising in Breda and that’s what has to stay. Yeah.

Manon So your dream is to create an international Breda?

Frank Yes, that is what I would like to do because my life has always been international. But if you work in the car industry, if you are a supplier in the automotive industry, it destroys you. And that is what happened to me. Yeah. I was a supplier to Mercedes Benz. I was a supplier to Bombardier. And the result was my heart attack because the pressure was really, really heavy.

But I wanted to do something international, but I wanted to do it my way. I did it my way. And that is what Brida is now moving towards. Very, very slowly, but I don’t know if it will work. I hope it does, but we will see. Yeah.

Manon So you have to try. Sorry.

Maxime Do you have contacts around the world or you search in the internet?

Frank No, I don’t have a network of teachers. So there are ways I could find these people and then I will write to them and introduce myself and say, this is what I do. It is a pilot project. Do you want to try it out with me? And then we see what happens. So it is this English pragmatic way of doing things. Let’s experiment and let’s see what happens. Yeah. The German would sit down and make a huge, complicated plan and work out all the risks and so on. It’s important, but the Germans would discuss and discuss and discuss. The English say, let’s do it and try it out. And the French say, let’s go to a restaurant and eat a dinner together, discuss it. And then we see what happens. Yeah. There’s a bit of a cliche, I know. But that is how the different cultures then work in my life. And I have the Englishness in me or the Americanism in me and I say, okay, I don’t really have a plan. Let’s go and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, don’t be if it works. Great.  

Maxime And did your economical certificate give you some advice or serve you to doing this or to?

Frank When I did this, it was back in the 1980s. I did my German Abitur in 1982. The world has changed a lot since then. Yeah. The fundamentals are probably the same. But you have to remember that in 1982, the internet didn’t even exist. Yeah. And that was something that has totally revolutionized the way we do things. Yeah. People still worked together. But if I ask you, what is a telex machine? Do you know what a telex machine is?

Maxime I heard about it. Yeah, I heard about it, but I don’t remember.

Frank Basically, imagine you have, Manon, do you know what a telex machine is?

Manon Oh, no.

Frank Okay. All right. So let’s start with the basics. Do you know what a typewriter is? Yes. Yes. Okay. So imagine, Manon, you have a typewriter and Maxime, you have a typewriter and the two typewriters are connected with a telephone line. Okay. And Manon would write something and it would appear immediately with you on your typewriter on paper with you, Maxime. And then you would write and it would arrive on Manon’s typewriter. Now, that was basic technology. The problem was that it was also very expensive to do this in those days. Yeah. So Manon can speak with people around the world and it doesn’t cost her anything. It’s part of her basic telephone package.

Yeah. We speak with people in the Brida Community in Los Angeles, in India, etc. And it costs me 54 euros a month for my Internet connection and 17 euros for my Zoom license. And that’s all I pay for it. Yeah. So for less for about 70, 80 euros a month, we can communicate around the world 24 hours a day. That was not possible back in the 1980s. Totally different. Yeah. The fundamental economics of supply and demand and how you work that and advertising and so on, that really hasn’t changed. Yeah. But my competition is global because I have to compete with other language schools and other trainers around the world because what I do is different. But somebody could pick up the idea and say, oh, that looks like fun. I will try and do it myself. Yeah. And he could be on the North Pole, for all we know. Yeah. And my other competition is that people are very busy. They don’t have time to do a lot of things. Yeah. That didn’t happen in the 1980s.

Maxime Yeah. It was a totally different life then. Yes. So the way life was very different at your…

Frank Totally, totally different. Yeah. Yeah. I could still listen. I could still listen to the radio. So I remember I would sit in Australia in my bedroom and listen to German radio on shortwave. If the weather was good, if I could get a signal and sometimes I couldn’t. Yeah. Now I can listen to a radio program in Australia from here in France. I can watch TV programs, maybe not legally, but I can watch TV programs in Australia. Yeah. And they are crystal clear as if I was watching TV as a child. Yeah. And that is a transition that took 40 years. Yeah. And now with artificial intelligence, all of this is going to change again. Yeah. But we don’t know what we will be doing in 20, 30 years. Yeah. It’s totally different. It’s exciting. I think it’s brilliant. It’s exciting, but it’s not without its risks. Yeah. But we can’t stop it. It’s a development which will continue.

Manon Personally, I think it’s very scary and not interesting, the development of artificial intelligence.

Frank It is scary, but it’s normal. I remember a few years ago, I was sitting in Vison-la-Romaine with my father in the Roman ruins there, and we were talking about human development. And it was basically about how did the ancient Romans wash themselves? Did they stink? Did they have hygiene? How did they do all of this? And then they had some canals and some systems, and then it got destroyed and people forgot about it. And if you go to Louis XIV, people wore perfume because there was no proper bathroom. Yeah. And so each generation is afraid of new developments because it doesn’t understand them. Yeah. So when the car was introduced, everybody said, oh, this is dangerous. We will die. It will kill humanity. No, it killed people, but it didn’t kill humanity. And then television came. Yeah. And then the internet came. And each generation, you know, my generation is the internet generation. We created this stuff. Yeah. And people say we are afraid. It is because they don’t understand it. And they don’t learn how to use it. And they don’t learn to play with it and experiment with it. Yeah. What is the worst thing that can happen if you play with artificial intelligence? Yeah. On an individual level. But your experience will be richer because you try, you take the risk. And that is very, very important. Yeah. Yes, there are idiots on this planet who will misuse artificial intelligence and they will cause big damage. I think we can all expect that. Will it kill humanity? I don’t think so. Will it kill lots of people? Possibly. But we have this instinct in us that we want to continue living. And we will continue doing this. And we will fight somebody who does not want us to continue living. And that is why there are wars and conflicts and so on. And there will be a winner and there will be a loser. And I think humanity will be the winner. Will it look like what we know today? No, it won’t. It will be totally different.

But we will continue living as a human being. I’m fairly optimistic. I won’t be there to see it. And to a certain degree, I’m happy that I’m not going to see it. But I think there will be grandchildren and great-grandchildren from your generation.

Maxime Yeah. So it’s simply that people are afraid and that’s normal. Yeah. That’s the siphon. We cannot change that.

Frank Exactement. Yeah. You cannot change it, but you can influence it. Yeah. So when ChatGBT first came in December 2022, I heard about it very quickly. And for three months, I thought, wow, my career is over. Everything is finished. I can stop working. And then I started playing with it. And then I started thinking, what can I do with this tool? And when I send you the corrections, you write something in the community and I send you the feedback because I have to produce so much. Yeah. In the last two weeks, I produced 30 such documents that I sent out to you, Manon, and I sent one to you. Yeah. I don’t do that by myself. I have to use ChatGBT, but I tell it exactly what it has to do. And then I send it out. But I look at it beforehand and I say, okay, I like this. I don’t like this. And then I change some things and then I send it out. But there is so much volume of work in this that I cannot do this by myself. And I do not have the money to ask somebody to do it for me. So I have to use artificial intelligence, but

Manon This is now my question. If ChatGBT doesn’t exist, you can do everything in Brida?

Frank I know what I do now. So, for instance, I will, when we finish this discussion, Zoom automatically produces an audio and a video recording. And then I will take the audio recording and put it into an artificial intelligence program. It’s not ChatGTP. It’s something else. And within 10 minutes, I will have the transcript of our talk. And then I will use certain programs that I created in ChatGPT to format this. So that if I didn’t have anything else planned tomorrow, I could put this interview into the community tomorrow morning with the video on YouTube, the transcript of our discussion. And I could also use ChatGPT to create language exercises for you to work with to improve your English. I cannot do any of that without artificial intelligence. So physically, I don’t have the time. It would take me probably two days to simply write what we are talking about. I did that 10 years ago. Yeah, it was horrible. Yeah. So I am using the tool to make you understand where you can improve your English.But I program it in such a way to make sure that it helps you and doesn’t work against you. And without artificial intelligence, I could not do any of this.

Yeah. And that’s what I learned. Yeah. So my main tool is ChatGPT. And I use the version that I pay for. So I use the paid version. And in this paid version, I create my own little what they call GPTs. So my little programs. I have about 25 different little programs which each do a certain thing. But there is also a program that is also created by OpenAI, the people who created ChatGPT. It’s called Whisper. And this is the program that converts a spoken text into a written text. And it does that with 95 percent accuracy. Yeah. It took me a little while to learn how to use it. Yeah. But now it’s an automatic process. So I convert the file that Zoom uses to an MP3 file. That already is artificial intelligence. Yeah. Then I upload the MP3 file to Whisper. It does its job. And 10 minutes later, I have the written text. Yeah. In the meantime, I upload the video to YouTube. And then I spend probably another hour, an hour and a half to edit and correct and modify the text, the transcript. Then I put it into a part of Breda where you see all the articles. And then I give you the link to say, OK, post it into the community and let’s see what happens. And that is artificial intelligence. That’s how I use artificial intelligence. And I learned all of that in the last 12 months, how to do all of that.

Maxime That’s magical.

Frank It’s the future. It’s what you have to do. But because I went to school in Australia and they taught me to go out, discover how things work and to make the mistakes and to fall down and stand up again. That’s why I’m 62 years old. That’s why I can still do this. Because I went to school in Australia. Had I gone to school in Germany or in France or some European country? Maybe. But I doubt it. I don’t think I would be doing this, what I’ve been doing the last 12 months. Did I shock you now?

Maxime It’s very, very interesting to know all of that about Breda, the artificial intelligence and how you use all this tool to create and to develop.

Manon Your point of view is very different because we don’t have the same age. So your point of view is very different.

Frank It is. It is. But for me, what is very important is that, yes, I use all this technology and I use these tools. But for me, the human contact and the human exchange is in the middle. It has to be the centre of everything. So that we speak with each other. So, Maxime, you are in Laval. Manon, you’re in Strasbourg. I’m here in the little village in Cleebourg. You know what I do on a Tuesday. I speak with people in Los Angeles, in Brazil, in Germany and in India. But we all speak with each other. And we all exchange ideas. We all learn from each other. Even me, I learn from them as well. And that is what the spirit of Brida is. And that is what I’m trying to teach to you all. Not only the language, but how to use the language, the culture and everything that goes with it. And that’s Brida. But it’s very difficult to sell. So maybe, Maxime, we can ask Manon to become my marketing manager on how to sell Brida. Or to market Brida. Because it is very difficult to promote and sell because nobody understands it.

Maxime That’s more complicated. I know that in our association at school, you have to do a lot of advertising in all the social media. So to promote your project, have a lot of interesting people in their project. And that’s the biggest part of the project.

Frank Maxime, Manon is our marketing genius.

Manon Not for the moment, but maybe next year.

Frank No, start now, Manon. Start now. Make the mistakes and learn from the mistakes. Because that’s the only way you can do it. No theory, go out, practice. If it goes wrong, okay. Wasn’t a good idea. But I learned from it. I won’t do it again. I’ll do it differently. And that’s how you learn. So we have a marketing manager, Maxime. She just needs to name her price.

Manon Oh, my price is not fixed. For example, yes.

Maxime Do you have any other questions, Manon?

Manon No.

Maxime Thank you to answer all of our questions. A very interesting interview from your learning English and the development of Brida from the beginning to today and from maybe the future. So thank you to answer our questions.

Frank Well, thank you for surprising me and thank you for giving me some marketing tools because I think what we did here was very good fun. I appreciate you surprising me with this, but it also gave me some ideas on what to do with promoting Brida over the next few years. So thank you for asking me these very nice questions.

Manon & Maxime Thank you.

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