Though the academy actually began fifteen years ago, in the tiny living room of my Madrid city center flat, the beginning of the story dates back to when I first arrived in Madrid in the year 2000. My initial experience of the city was intoxicating; the language, the nightlife, and the vibrancy and history of the city itself. I fell in love with Madrid immediately, feeling a thrill every time I had the opportunity to introduce visitors to my new home, and knew Madrid would form a long term narrative in my life.
After three years, during which I achieved a near perfect use of the Spanish language (my British accent remains and will forever accompany me!), I felt the pull to learn something new so, taking advantage of some holiday time, went to France to do a short intensive French course. While there, I met the director of a language school in Montpellier who gave me my first insight into an academy from the teaching and directing perspective. At that moment, a small seed was planted and slowly began to take root in my mind. Was this what I wanted to do? I loved learning languages, loved knowledgeable, enthusiastic teachers, and knew what it took to engage a student. So why not start my own academy?
A few short years later, AIL Madrid was born. With the help of a university friend, Brishen, and Dori, the soon-to-be Director of Studies, all working from our various, old fashioned Madrid flats, we worked hard to turn an idea into a living, breathing school. We created a website, rented a space, and interviewed teachers. I knew from the beginning that I wanted dedicated, native teachers: people who had studied to become linguists or educators, who were passionate about the language, who cared for the students, and who understood and enjoyed discussing Spanish culture. We also dedicated ourselves to quality and, over the years, have proudly earned the most important, international accreditations and become one of the leading names in Spanish education.
In the summer of 2006, we met with our first student, Stephanie. Stephanie was from Nuremburg, Germany, and provides an example of the academy/student relationship that still exists at AIL today. She was a friendly, warm, 26-year-old with a real determination to learn Spanish quickly. She studied with us for three months and became a member of our small family. After her course, I hired her to work in the administrative office, and we have continued our friendship ever since.