Bishop’s High School teacher Abeni Taylor is the first person in Tobago to open a foreign-language bookstore and resource centre.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, 30-year-old Taylor said the bookstore was launched on May 22 at Taylor Drive in Carnbee.
“It came to me in a dream in October 2021 as the bilingual bookstore, and in putting it into fruition, I changed the name to 'the foreign language bookstore and resource centre,' because we really want to spread the love for foreign language through our books, resources, online learning techniques.”
She said in the dream, she was teaching, noting that during her classes she usually creates original resources to reach her students better.
“They are a bit more simplified than the content that is in the textbooks and in the dream, someone told me, 'Well, hurry up and open the bookstore, the bilingual bookstore; – and that is when I woke up and I wrote it down. I said I would be opening this bilingual bookstore.
“The power is in the doing. We all can plan, we all can talk, but execution is key when you want to attain success.”
At the store, Taylor also has her own published books.
“There are my Spanish manual five-book series, that has over ten topics in the Spanish language. There are also different activities that are in those books; some primary and pre-schools use it. There is my first bilingual colouring book, which teaches two topics in Spanish, and children can colour and relate to the topics in the book.”
There are also a number of other items on sale.
“We have foreign-language games both in Spanish and French. I have resources for reading which were created by a local author, Jerrisha Davis-Dickinson – her things focus on English-language learning with regard to speech and reading.”
There is also a devotional corner, which consists of Bibles, as well as inspiration and devotional cards. There is also a merchandise section with T-shirts, mugs and water bottles, all branded "The Foreign Language Bookstore and Resource Centre." There are also string bags and a wide variety of stationery.
The store is an extension of Taylor's school – the School of Foreign Language, Tobago, which she started in 2014 when she returned home after finishing her degree. It caters to everyone who wants to learn a foreign language, from children as young as two.
“As long as you can hold a pencil, and once you can comprehend words and repeat and regurgitate them, we are targeting those individuals – from as young as two years old until you are ready to stop learning, which is something very rare. We don’t stop learning.”
As a language teacher at her alma mater, Taylor has noticed an increase in people wanting to learn a foreign language. She feels this has to do with the influx of Venezuelans in TT.
Some people are doing it for leisure, some for business, some for their jobs, she says, but all in all she's seeing more and more.
Having begun a teaching career, Taylor said it was never her career path.
“My intention in life was really to become a doctor, but I always tell people, French and Spanish chose me. That is how I am here today, trying to impact lives through foreign languages and leadership.”
At secondary school, Taylor focused heavily on biology, chemistry and physics, but did do French and Spanish. At fourth-form level, she chose to do the CSEC Spanish examination, got a grade one with a straight A profile and continued with French at fifth form.
“I fell in love more and then I pursued them at the advanced level, along with biology, because I still had that in me to be a doctor. When I was signing up for UWI, I just literally wrote 'Spanish and French' on the paper, and that’s it, it all just unfolded thereafter.”
When she started teaching Spanish, she added, "I focused on French as well...sometimes I feel as though it was ordained over my life to do it, because it feels so normal, so natural. It doesn’t feel like work, it feels as though this is a purpose in which I am fulfilling. It feels as though this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
In addition to her private classes, Taylor teaches from forms two to lower six.
“Most of them have fun with it, they enjoy the classes.”