Transforming Language Teachers into Language Coaches

Transforming Language Teachers into Language Coaches

20 June 2014, by Rachel Paling

Since I started to create and deliver the Language Coaching Training course, I have had the honour of working and training with some extremely experienced language teachers. One group in Paris alone had a collective experience within the room of about 200 years. And for me, to actually witness the transformation of teacher to coach is such a great experience and to get feedback from teachers who really recognize the change in themselves is rewarding and reinforcing the value of the training that I offer.

So what is the value you are asking? What is this transformation that I am talking about? Well the first thing I would like to clarify is that we all do originate from teaching and I always acknowledge and respect the teaching process, reminding us all that we cannot ignore or leave this process behind. Language coaching is comprised of various elements and one of the most important of these elements is in fact “teaching a language” as that is our purpose and mission through the means available to us. The real question is exactly “how we deliver this learning process” and with Language Coaching the approach is absolutely distinguished through coaching principles, coaching ethics, coaching tools and processes, powerful coaching conversations around language and grammar and in “neurolanguage coaching” there is an added dimension which is the neuroscience of learning and how the brain likes to learn.

What then happens to a language teacher on this course?

Inner awareness and raised sensitivity into how the brain learns

Well, the first step of actually learning through neuroscientific evidence how the brain works and how the brain likes to learn, creates an inner awareness and sensitivity that teachers normally do not possess, mainly because teachers are not trained or taught about the impacts of teaching on the brain. Understanding how the brain works, how the limbic works actually gives teachers an enormous insight into how their teaching style or behavior with learners could have an everlasting impact – just think back to your own school days to remember the negative or positive impacts that some teachers may have had on you personally!

We now know that no two brains are the same (David Rock, Quiet Leadership) and as a teacher this means that every single learner sitting in front of us is potentially different and learns differently to the person sitting next to them. This also begs the question to rethink our whole educational systems for children, but that is perhaps a different topic for another paper.

Using techniques and coaching conversations to maintain the brain in a “happy learning state” is essential for maximum learning effects and efficient learning and this course really brings the necessary knowledge and tools together to achieve that.

Powerful coaching conversations

The entire conversation between language coach and coachee follows a certain pattern that moves the language coach away from directive and instructional mode and into an interactive and brain-friendly mode. Some of the teachers on my course have actually commented afterwards how much they have moved away from a directive style and how they now stop themselves from taking the lead or directing and now have shifted the emphasis on the coachee,  getting the coachee to lead more and take control. This in effect assists the coachee to take ownership of the whole learning process and when the coachee realizes just how much he/she is improving after a short time it really encourages and empowers the whole learning process. The impact of these conversations is amazing, not only for the coachee learner but also for the language coach him/herself. Focus and attention are increased, the brain becomes more efficient and the learning becomes faster and hardwires(long term memories) more easily.

Active listening

Language coaches actually learn to listen in a two-dimensional way. Not only do they listen to content of the topic, but they also listen deeply for the grammatical flaws and mistakes. You may say that all teachers do this and you are right. However, how many of us are only half listening to what is being said and already in our minds planning what we are going to say next or trying to foresee what the learner will say next.  The language coach knows exactly how the pre-frontal cortex functions and knows how to stay in the moment to enable deeper listening and then after having really listened, knows exactly what to say and how to react.

Unconscious Competence

On the course we also understand that the major mission of the language coach is for the coachee to reach a state of unconscious competence in the language – that is to say “mastery”.  We know that the brain loves to operate in an automatic mode and understanding how the brain really hardwires memories actually helps the process of moving short term memories into long term memories. “Cells that fire together, wire together – Hebb´s Law” nicely reflects the process that we want to occur in the brain. With enough focus and attention and knowing exactly how to do that means that the language coach can “provoke, invoke and revoke” the necessary brain connections or in some cases “disconnections”.


The language coaching training offers a real structure to the sessions, which is brain friendly and focus and attention friendly. The more structure the coachee has the more efficiently the brain will learn. Some of the teachers on the course have thanked me for the solid structure given, the administration behind the structure and the availability of papers and forms to enhance that structure.

All in all, I am witnessing great transformations into language coaches. I always consider the learning process to absolutely belong to the coachee and for me personally it is essential that I take a step back and allow my coachee to be the protagonist. This also means that a certain amount of ego of the teacher has to be foregone – I always say that the process is not about ME, I am only the facilitator, the catalyst – the process is about my COACHEE´s efficient learning.

In essence teachers transforming into language coaches become:

  • Aware of how the brain learns
  • Aware of their own impact on the learner´s brain
  • Sensitive to limbic reactions of the brain
  • Provocative – provoking brain connections
  • Experts at powerful conversations
  • Experts at active listening
  • Much more empathetic
  • Aware of coaching ethics and principles
  • Masters in goal setting conversations and no longer directive telling coaches what to do
  • Absolutely less directive and more interactive and at times more passive
  • Structured and orientated towards focus and attention
  • Facilitators and catalysts for brain connections to hardwire

Here are some of the testimonies of teachers that have now transformed into language coaches:

“The course was a real help to me in developing my ability to understand and help my clients.  Since I completed the course I have lost count of the number of times I have been confronted with situations where I have been able to apply the models and techniques I learned to get rapid and positive results.  The best thing about the course is that it taught me how to apply the knowledge and skills which I already had in such a way as to bring about quicker and more visible progress in my clients’ performance. ” (Kevin, Paris, France)

“The Language Coaching Certification course with Efficient Language Coaching has proven to be an invaluable experience for me. The finely-textured instructions and stimulating discussions with my colleagues deepened and expanded my knowledge and skills. The course also opened my eyes to my own potential as a language coach. As a result, I am now better equipped to help language learners to achieve their goals. I feel honored to become a member of this progressive community of language coaches, and to be able to spread the effectiveness and impact of language coaching throughout the world.” (Emi, New York/Japan)

“The certification course was simply outstanding! Not only did it help me (a seasoned trainer and coach) re-discover the joys of teaching and learning – integrating coaching skills into the mix is a unique, cutting edge approach. I now have a bigger toolbox to better serve my clients and continue to grow my business. Thank you very much, Rachel!” (Wendy, Berlin, Germany)

“The ELC language coaching certification programme has provided me with the fourth pillar for my research into language learning enhancement and it has opened up new and more effective ways of helping my students/clients set, and reach, their language related goals. The programme makes very effective use of the coaching principles it teaches and it provides plenty of practice to make sure we all re-wire our modus operandi into becoming effecive listeners who ask the “magic” questions that will stretch our learners to success. I strongly recommend this programme.” (Patricia, Gran Canaria)

© 2024 Rachel Marie Paling

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