We all know that fantastic feeling we have after completing an academic year: nine months of English classes, often twice a week. All those extra hours studying and practising. We’ve learnt so many new things and made so much improvement, and usually, met some new friends along the way – growing our own English language community! Well, can you imagine twenty-five of those academic years? What a milestone!

Yes, it’s time to celebrate this incredible achievement made by everyone at Oxford House. On top of that, learn a little bit about the history and the decisions that helped create our favourite English language school in Barcelona. We got to chat to founder Duncan Foord about his story.

What was the inspiration behind starting your own language school?


“It was a collection of factors”, Duncan explains. “The three of us who started it were working in another school and we were getting a bit fed up, so our inspiration was kind of ‘we can do better than this! We need to do better!’”

Aside from a feeling of frustration with the organisation, Duncan felt the students deserved more. So, instead of applying for jobs in other language schools, they decided to put their heads together and start their own. Back then, in the 90s, teaching English didn’t have the same structure as it has now. “I think teachers are more professional now,” Duncan says. “When I came, there were quite a lot of teachers who they used to call backpackers – you kind of left university and thought ‘what shall I do? I’ll travel the world!’”

Duncan and the founders saw the low standard and wanted to do it better. They wanted to create something that they could feel proud of – something that students would be excited about going to, or as Duncan sums it up: “great place to work, great place to learn”.

What was it like in the early days?


Oxford House wasn’t always the amazing language academy you can see today. In fact, it wasn’t even on the same premises. Originally, it was a five-bedroom flat, with the bedrooms repurposed as classrooms and the kitchen as the teacher’s room. Duncan and the team bought chairs, tables and books, and started from there. “We did everything – all of us, kind of multitasking”, Duncan adds. “It was great fun as well, because there are fond memories of being a team in that adversity … but also stress as well!”

Well, we only need to look at Oxford House today, with its 23 classrooms and over 100 employees, to agree that the hard work has paid off. However, there have been challenges along the way. Like many small businesses, Oxford House felt the effect of the pandemic. Duncan and the team had to work quickly in order to prepare everyone for online classes. It was a challenge, but like a lot of people facing this unprecedented situation, the power of teamwork and human spirit helped them get through.

When students were allowed to return to the classroom, it was clear to see they’d missed the experience of attending classes. “People were glad to come back, just like they wanted to go back to restaurants and pubs.” Duncan explains that “people could order takeout food and sit at home, but no one wanted to do that. Language learning is a social event for people, a meeting place and a community thing.”

Can you pick one highlight from the last 25 years?


Obviously, it’s hard for Duncan to pick one specific highlight. Every person connected to Oxford House, whether they are working or studying, is on their own journey of growth and improvement. However, Duncan feels the opportunity for Oxford House to spread their wings and work with other schools has been incredibly positive.

In 2012, after successful partnerships with other schools in London, Hong Kong and the south of Spain, Duncan was approached to help set up a franchise in Kerala, India. The idea of this franchise was to help people train to become teachers. However, at this point in time, Kerala was a little different to Barcelona. “You’re making a huge difference, or at least it felt that way, because suddenly you were in a place where the opportunities people had were very limited, especially women.” Duncan continues: “We could see that they were coming in, doing this teaching course, becoming professionals, and then they could earn their own living and be independent.”

Duncan and Oxford House’s contribution to the lives of many students and teachers has been immeasurable. They have helped an enormous number of students gain the qualifications needed for their careers. On top of this, they have given countless teachers the opportunity to help students achieve their goals. Moreover, they have helped communities across the globe in their own quests for improvement.

What’s next at Oxford House?


Looking back on the changes in the last 25 years, Duncan recognises that we’ll likely see more in the future. Like any small business, the need to adapt and change will always be important. In other words, we all must grow! However, he is keen to make sure that Oxford House stays true to itself.

“As educators, we need to make sure that we are human.” Duncan is more than aware of how much access to the English-speaking world the modern student has now in comparison to 25 years ago. So, this is why so much value is placed on the teachers at Oxford House. After all, they’re just as big a part of the community as the students!

Looking back but moving forward


As Duncan reflects on the last 25 years, there are clear indications that the job is not finished. “Do more”, Duncan suggests when he’s asked what advice he’d give himself 10 years ago. “Take more risks”, he adds. He hints at more collaborations like Kerala. Watch this space!

So, “community“, “achieving goals“, “working together“, “do more“, “we can do better” … Now do you see where we get it from? We feel proud of the welcoming environment we’ve created here, and our students are a big part of that too. So, let’s do more together!

It’s not just in-house classes we can help you with. Check out these blogs to see a small selection of what else is on offer!

MigraCode: An Inspiring New Partnership For Oxford House

Why Oxford House Is More Than Just a Language Academy

9 Tips For Communicating With Locals In English-Speaking Countries

Improve your English pronunciation by mastering these 10 tricky words

5 of the best apps to improve your English listening skills

Be part of the Oxford House community

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

milestone (n): an important event in the history of someone’s life.

fed up (adj): frustrated.

put your heads together (id): plan something as a group.

sum up (pv): summarise.

repurpose (v): find a new use for something.

fond (adj): happy, loving.

pay off (pv): result in success.

unprecedented (adj): never having happened.

get through (pv): succeed in doing something difficult.

spread your wings (id): use your abilities for the first time in order to do new things.

set up (pv): establish (a company).

immeasurable (adj): so large or great that it cannot be measured.

countless (adj): too many to be counted.

hint (v): say something that shows what you want, in an indirect way.


pv = phrasal verb

id = idiom

adj = adjective

n = noun

v = verb


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