Wednesday, July 11, 2012
With her new business, Across the Languages owner and North Chattanooga resident Karen Claypool is able to use a variety of her diverse skills, providing her linguistic expertise to lead trips throughout the world and help decide local court cases.
Her offerings also include instruction in English or German as a second language, provided in individual, group or corporate settings. Claypool said she was hired by Volkswagen of Chattanooga to teach language and culture to the spouses of its employees, and BJW in Ringgold is also among the large-scale companies that have requested her services.
“My personal mission is to help foster understanding between and among diverse groups, countries, cultures, religions and ethnic groups,” she said.
As an intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force, Claypool’s father spent two three-year tours in Germany, where she spent much of her childhood. Fluent in German, Claypool speaks conversational Portuguese as well as some Dutch, French and Spanish.
“I think it’s important that people learn language,” she said. “When one learns language, one learns to understand people; through language we learn culture, mentality, how people think.”
Claypool taught for nearly 40 years in widespread locales from Indiana to Germany to Brazil, her most recent position being a part-time German instructor at Center for Creative Arts for the last four years. Now that she has fully retired from teaching and can travel outside the summer months, she said she plans to greatly increase the number of trips she leads abroad.
Claypool’s international connections help her create a more genuine cultural experience for her clients in the countries they are visiting. Instead of just visiting the typical tourist destinations, her clients might take a lesson in the country’s traditional dance from an instructor who mainly teaches local students, she said.
“Travel is fatal to narrow-mindedness and bigotry,” said Claypool, recalling a quote she once read. “By introducing [clients] to new places, I am helping them grow in their love for and appreciation of other countries, cultures and peoples.”
Her most recent class was an eight-week German course for adults, some of who accompanied her on a proceeding trip to Germany.
She said her next venture will be to Turkey in October, followed by a trip to Cambodia and Thailand in November and another excursion to Columbia in January.
In her position with the city of Chattanooga as vice president of relations between Chattanooga and its sister city of Hamm, Germany, Claypool organized an exchange program between CCA students and high-schoolers from Hamm. Her trips are now focused on adults age 21 and older.
“For traveling, with adults you don’t have to worry about what they’re drinking or what their extracurricular activities may be,” she said.
Without the overhead cost of hiring employees, Claypool said her trips differ in that she is able to offer prices significantly lower than her competitors’.
“I really want to keep it a one-man show,” she said. “I take on as much as I can handle and no more.”
She said in the future she wants to facilitate trips to Chattanooga for people from other countries. Starting in 2012, Claypool said she would like to host four to six groups annually for two- to three-week periods.
Claypool said she has friends who have agreed to provide home-stays for her visitors, as well as to attend dinners on her porch and engage in culturally revealing conversations.
By August she said the business’s website should be complete and will feature a complete list of services as well as information about upcoming trips and class offerings.