Channel Crossings Crossing borders and language barriers

Published: 8. 11. 2018
Author: Redakce
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The 1990s - a period symbolised by massive development of the business sector and, at the same time, a tremendous interest in foreign countries and language education. Up until 1989, state agencies (such as the State Language School, the Brno Language School, etc.) had been involved in translating, interpreting and language teaching, and in addition to these agencies, in most Czech schools Russian, and sometimes German, were taught and only in a small percentage of schools were there any English lessons.

“After 1989, when borders opened up and new opportunities were created, there was almost a hunger for knowledge of foreign languages. At that time nobody was interested in Russian. Books written in English began to flow into the Czech Republic, it was possible to watch English-speaking TV channels, and everyone wanted to learn English. I started to learn English as well and got the chance to travel to America to study ... Until then that had been almost impossible!”

After 1990, the opportunity for new business projects opened up. One of the first language agencies in the Czech Republic was Channel Crossings. It was founded in 1993 by Lenka Pavilková and her partner Floyd Curtis, whom she had met while studying in the United States. Lenka had graduated in physical education and English. As soon as she had finished studying in the USA, her American partner came with her to the Czech Republic and it was clear what their business plan would be.

School at home

“After the revolution the English Channel was seen as a kind of gateway into another world, everyone wanted to go to Britain, to London, to see where the Queen lived, or to earn some money. At that time the Channel Tunnel still hadn’t been built and the only way of getting to Britain was on the ferry across the channel. Crossing the channel at that time was almost symbolic – and so that’s why we’re called Channel Crossings.”

To begin with, Channel Crossings was an agency that focused on individual and group English teaching and translation and interpreting services in English. It was an agency of two people, the language courses were run by Lenka, and Floyd and the students mostly went to their home or they taught them in cafés, and only later did tutors begin to go to companies for the first corporate language courses. Lenka also did interpreting work and in the evenings she did translations. There was a demand for Channel Crossings’ services, the company started to hire additional teachers and translators, and a year after the company had started working, additional languages – German, French, Spanish, Italian – were added to its portfolio.

Growth through competition

In 1996, when other translation agencies were already appearing on the market and by which time language education had become a necessity, Lenka, based on her own personal experience, came up with the idea of offering studies abroad - and Channel Crossings soon began to arrange language courses abroad.

The company grew rapidly, the first Channel Crossings teaching centre was opened in Dřevná Street in Prague in 1997, and in 1998 Channel Crossings became an accredited school providing postgraduate English studies. Gradually other teaching centres were opened, the most modern and the best equipped being the language school in Prague Radotín.

By the year 2000, other language agencies and language schools had been established in the Czech Republic and in 2003 the Association of Language Schools of the Czech Republic was formed. Channel Crossings was one of its founding members.

Informal approach

Channel Crossings currently employs almost forty people and works externally with around a further 500 people. The agency is run by professional management headed by its director, Vítězslav Bican. Lenka Doležalová Pavilková no longer manages the agency but together with the management she is involved in company strategy and planning.

“Even though I have decided to give up the executive management, Channel Crossings is still very important to me, and I’m interested in what’s going on in the company and I help with planning. I demand a personal approach and insight from our employees and teachers and I also try to do the same. It’s important for me to talk to people in person, to get an idea. I often go to lunch with our regular staff. That’s the best way for me to find out what the atmosphere is like in the company.”

Thousands of students

Language teaching accounts for about 70% of all the agency’s activities, the most important part of which is company courses, both individually and in groups, which are still very popular. Studies abroad are still a significant part of the educational activities. In addition to teaching, the agency is also involved in translation and interpreting services, as well as European projects, providing advice on projects and grants from the European Union, and as part of these projects it also organises seminars for language teachers. Over the course of one year, the Channel Crossings team teaches roughly eight thousand students, and translators go through tens of thousands of pages of text.

What it offers

There are six basic languages in the Channel Crossings portfolio: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Russian. “English remains the dominant language for both company and private courses. French, Spanish and German are far behind it. The boom that was promised a few years ago for Chinese has not appeared. However, we still offer this language, as well as other less common languages.” In addition to Chinese and Japanese, Channel Crossings also offers Arabic, Greek, Swedish and Dutch. Of course, there are also Czech courses for foreigners. The language school currently has two branches and Channel Crossings is one of the most stable and prestigious language institutions in the country.


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