Updated: Sep 6



What is the difference between a language coach and a language teacher?

If you had to make an important decision in your life, what would you do? What if you had a passion for languages? There is literally nothing about this topic that doesn't pull at your core. It was your life's dream to help others express themselves through a new language and culture. You wanted to open doors for them to new opportunities and help them find their voice. But what if you didn't know you had options? Suppose you didn't even know there was such a thing as a language coach, and you thought you only had the option of becoming a teacher?

This article explains the key differences between a language teacher and a language coach. Having this knowledge will assist you in making the best possible decisions as a learner and as a professional.

When learning a new language, it is essential to understand the difference between a teacher and a coach. Unless you knew that a coach and a teacher are different, how would you know which one is right for you? If you are interested in becoming a language educator yourself, you should also know this information. A language teacher recently told me she had never heard of a language coach and thought there was no difference. This is probably one of the reasons why people have a hard time choosing their language path. As a result, they fail to consider all available facts and options before making a decision. To better understand the differences between the two, let's explore the topic here a bit. Your goals will be more easily met if you make informed decisions.


The Main Difference

A language teacher and a language coach are primarily distinguished by their titles and core responsibilities.

  • It is the primary responsibility of a language teacher to provide instruction based on a specified curriculum.

  • A language coach, however, places the student at the center of the learning process.

It's important to note that this article is not a comparison of which one is better. We will explore later how a teacher and a coach can sometimes borrow practices from each other's specialties. Therefore, they can have both attributes. It is important to understand that they have different specialties and therefore will approach issues differently based on their expertise, training, and personality.

The curriculum is usually at the heart of the language teacher's program, as mentioned above. Curriculums are established in advance, so students know what they will be studying when they sign up for the course. A language teacher would likely be an excellent choice if you are trying to pass an exam or receive accreditation for a specific language.

On the other hand, a language coach is generally not bound by a specific curriculum. Their methods, approach, and the environment they create around your learning process are therefore more flexible. It is better suited to those who would like to achieve a specific lifestyle goal. Say you are planning a trip to Mexico and want to order food at a restaurant and speak with the locals. Despite the fact that a teacher will provide you with curriculum that could lead you there, the fact that the curriculum is at the center means that you will need to wait for the curriculum to catch up to your specific needs, while the language coach on the other hand can get right to where you want instantly because of their flexibility around the learner.

Other Examples

It is also necessary for a language teacher to have a very high level of proficiency in the target language. Their primary goal is for you to master a specific amount of linguistic content over the duration of the curriculum and they assist you with aspects such as learning vocabulary, grammar and acquiring specific cultural knowledge. A language coach does not necessarily need to speak the language you want to learn. I know that might sound strange, but bare with me.

Their main role is to help you develop the skills, mindset, and habits needed to become an effective learner who can tackle any language on your own. For example, I once had a client who really desired to learn Norwegian; a language I don’t speak. He came to me because he wanted to find out what the fastest, most effective way for him to get to a conversational level and looked to me for guidance as he knew a part of my expertise was in helping learners discover their individual method for effective language acquisition.

Once again, a language coach primarily focuses on helping you become a successful self-learner, not necessarily teaching you the grammar and vocabulary of a language. Although, in my experience, a skilled language coach who can provide you with a deeper experience is one who has learned multiple languages as well. This is because there are elements of the process that need to be experienced to truly be understood.

I adore language teachers. As a matter of fact, this is how I came to learn my first languages. After attending a special language high school, I won seven awards for outstanding results in German, French, and Spanish and went on to receive a scholarship at the age of 16 to begin a Bachelor of Languages at University, where I won the Goethe Institut for German Studies honorary prize and excelled in four other languages as well. Without the help of superb teachers, I could not have achieved these awards. In spite of this, I decided to explore the aspects as a Holistic Language Coach because I wanted to incorporate personal development into my teaching methodologies, which may have been impossible as a teacher.

  • I believe a teacher's main focus is on considering the problem and providing quality solutions.

  • On the other hand, a coach focuses on sharpening a person or team's ability to frame and solve problems.

Examinations are an example of this difference. While your language teacher will be focused on getting you the best grade on an exam, your language coach will assist you in embodying a language so that you can use it in practical situations throughout your life. There might be someone out there cringing, so let me repeat my initial statement: this isn't a comparison of better or worse, it's my personal opinion based on my experiences as a student and a coach.

While a teacher cares more about the quality of the thought process behind the solution, a coach cares more about the client's ability to come up with the solution on their own. In order to make this point clearer,

  • Teachers are concerned with the subject matter;

  • Coaches focus on a team's or individual's capabilities.

When to Use a Teacher / Coach

Efficacy in teaching and coaching depends on the learner's prior experience with the language or framework.

I've found that teaching is more effective than coaching when individuals/groups have no prior knowledge of the subject they're learning, whereas coaching is more effective when the individual/group has some prior knowledge. For example, when I work with corporate clients, if the team/individuals have no prior knowledge of the basic attributes about a specific language, the structure of our research parameters, basic grammar, utility, or how they learn best, I will use some teaching methods to get them started. When the team has some experience with the same parameters, I will begin with Holistic Language Coaching/Consulting. It is, however, a guideline rather than a rule: There are some exceptions when a group with no prior knowledge would benefit more from coaching (for example, when a corporation has a short deadline or when there is a clear objective).

At its core, the purpose of teaching and coaching is to help others grow and achieve their potential. However, there are two different approaches to achieving this goal. One way shares knowledge, the other draws it out.

You are welcome to share your thoughts about this article or to ask any questions you may have. Your ability to make informed decisions both as a learner and as a professional will be enhanced if you have this knowledge.

Click here for information about my upcoming program for Holistic Language Coaches.


by Lina Vasquez

30th August 2022


References:

  1. (n.d.). Language Coaches: What they are and how to work with them. Retrieved from: https://www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/blog/language-coaches

  2. Oxford U.K. (2019) The role of coaching and coach language in clients’ language and individual change. Retrieved from http://scholar.sun.ac.za/handle/10019.1/123281

  3. (2022) What’s the difference between a Language Teacher, Tutor and Coach? Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-difference-between-language-teacher-tutor-coach-kirsten?trk=pulse-article



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You may have heard that it’s incredibly easy for children to learn languages. But do you know how they actually do it? How does a child go from cries and coos to expressing their desires and build all of that up to engage in profound dialogue later in life?

According to psychological scientists, how a child picks up language encompasses holisticism and is dependent on these three main factors:

  • The amount of language they are exposed to

  • Their time spent in back and forth language interactions

  • Physical connections with their environment

The last one probably came as a surprise to you, but yes, scientific research is only now catching up to reveal what we as human beings have inherently known for millenia; using our physical body plays an indispensable role in the development of our cerebral and linguistic capacities.


As a mother and multilingual educator myself, I have seen the impact of this first hand, through the rapid development of my son’s linguistic and motor skills, that are expanding faster than we can keep up with!


At just 6 weeks of age, he already began mimicking certain sounds and engaging with us in dialogue using his baby language. He would respond differently to when he is being spoken to in English, Latvian or Spanish; the main languages of his environment.


As digital nomads and entrepreneurs, he is with us 24/7 meaning he hears my multilingual conversations on a daily basis, my partner and I have constant dialogues with him and continuously expose him to new environments such as taking him to the beach, spending time in nature, in the garden and going out on daily walks around our neighbourhood.


THE ROLE OF TOUCH


We think of children soaking up words like being sponges. And if it is indeed a sponge that they are touching, chances are high this will be the next word getting added to their vocabulary.


Why?


Objects that children can hold and interact with physically on their own are learned more earlier than vocabulary for abstract ideas and concepts.


One study in the cognitive sciences explored this by looking at how children learn words based on items that can be touched and interacted with by the child. Parents were asked to rate how easily their little one could physically interact with the object, idea or experience that the word referenced. The results showed that the words that refer to objects easy for children to interact with were also the very words they learned at an earlier age. *


For example, even though the words spoon and sky are both part of common, everyday vocabulary, spoon is usually learned earlier because it is something the child can explore with their body whereas sky is not.

WHY PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Did you know that whether it is the child holding the object or the parent changes the entire experience?


I notice the different responses in my son when we walk around the garden and he touches the leaves as I teach him what the Latvian word for “leaf” is. He is more alert and receptive in his responses compared to if I were to simply speak to him about the garden without any direct stimulation from the environment around him.

Across multiple studies, children were equipped with body cameras to allow researchers to view the environment exactly as the child would.


What they found in one study was that 18-month-old toddlers were more likely to learn the name of a new object when they held it and less likely to learn the name if it was held by their parent. Another study showed that 15-month-olds who spent more time manipulating new objects had learned more nouns by the time they were 21 months old.


And it makes sense why children learn the names of objects they get to touch sooner than others. At any given time, there are many different objects in a child's vision. When a parent names a particular object, it is a lot more difficult for the child to know what the parent is talking about. However, when children are holding or touching a specific object, that object is much closer to them and fills more of their vision, making it easier for them to connect the word the parent has used with the object they see.*

INTERACTION


Physically connecting with an object makes it easier to identify its meaning and the letters or spoken sounds of the word. A recent study found this to be true with children in grades two and four, who were able to read and recognise the words for objects that were easy to interact with much more effectively than others.


“The children recognized the words with higher 'Body Object Interaction' (BOI) ratings at higher accuracy rates and higher response speeds more than the words with lower BOI ratings, showing a BOI effect.”


The key element here is real life, physical interaction. It is not the same if children are interacting with something on a screen. Children who had more screen time per day were found to not be as fast or accurate in their responses.


“This is because increased screen time may reduce the quantity and quality of physical experiences that children have with objects in their environment.”*


Of course children will come to learn words for concepts that are abstract and intangible, such as sky, however research shows that it can be of great benefit to give children opportunities to have sensory play to help advance their vocabularies.


Through touching, grasping and interacting children develop not only their motor skills, but as exemplified in the various studies mentioned above, physical experience is just as important for a child to acquire new words and develop their language skills.


This is why the holistic learning approach is so important; because it takes advantage of all elements of your being, thereby enhancing your capacity to learn whilst simultaneously improving your overall wellbeing.


This is great news because it means learning can literally take place anywhere with anything (provided it is safe of course) that is in your immediate environment!


No matter your current situation, this holistic learning approach to enhanced language acquisition can be applied to your child’s development. As we take education beyond the industrial and technological revolution, let’s craft a future for our children that includes all their faculties while simultaneously enhancing their wellbeing.


Let’s connect the world through holistic education.


If you would like to know more about holistic language learning and how to connect with your child deeper through language, you can connect with me via lina@lina-vasquez.com, Instagram, LinkedIn or visit my Website.

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Lina Vasquez is a Holistic Learning Coach, Polyglot, YouTuber and Co-Founder of A Life OnPurpose & LVL Holistic Learning. Her work seeks to revolutionise the education sector by fostering deep, holistic, human connection on a global level; doing so in 7 languages.

____________________________________________________


References:

1. Chen Yu, Linda B. Smith, Embodied attention and word learning by toddlers, Cognition, Volume 125, Issue 2, 2012, Pages 244-262, ISSN 0010-0277, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2012.06.016.


2. Romeo RR, Leonard JA, Robinson ST, et al. Beyond the 30-Million-Word Gap: Children’s Conversational Exposure Is Associated With Language-Related Brain Function. Psychological Science. 2018;29(5):700-710. doi:10.1177/0956797617742725


3. Xu, Z., Liu, D. Body–object interaction effect in word recognition and its relationship with screen time in Chinese children. Read Writ(2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-021-10238-2

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Do you find you often assume the outcome of something before you have even taken the action?


For example, you want to contact someone you'd love to work with. But before you have even taken the first step, your mind has already jumped to thoughts like:

  • why they might not reply

  • you should drop it, it's going to take so long to write up a proposal and what if it's all for nothing?

  • what you need to do have in place before you reach out

  • they may say no

Why is it that even when we have all of the information and ability to take an action we are excited about... negative thoughts still get in the way?


You know somewhere in your mind that these thoughts aren't actually real. There are so many potentialities, positive ones too, yet why is it so hard to move past these? They show up and often times, lead us to self-sabotage and miss out on deeply enriching opportunities in our lives, all because we took these automatic negative thoughts as truth and didn't know how to manage them.


If you've ever unsuccessfully coached yourself in such moments and tried to sprinkle a set of positive comebacks at that negativity, here's why it doesn't work:


We can’t talk, research or think our way out of negative thought patterns.


You can't fight thought with thought.


We don't take action based on what we know, we take action based on how we feel.


Although there are some nuances between what it means to have a feeling and an emotion, don’t get bogged down in the rhetoric of these terms.


The most important thing is to first understand yourself. Whatever is happening inside of you needs to be understood by you! Even if you happen to go through therapy or counselling, no one will ever truly be able to tell you about what you’re experiencing within.


This is a journey that we all have to navigate for ourselves. And finding a way to connect and influence your own feelings at any given moment is a good place to start.


It should become obvious over time that information is not enough for you to resolve the negative thoughts that stop you from going after your dreams. Because if it were true that information alone was sufficient, this is something every one would have mastered already, — by reading more books or doing more research, right? So there must be something else.


We need to connect with our emotions if we wish to transform our behaviour and attitude towards a challenge such as this one.

Our entire system of education is in some ways a psychological trap that leads us to believe that the answers to our most important questions lie outside of ourselves.


Get Curious


One place to start is getting curious about the stories that show up in these moments. Our brain is just trying to protect us from danger. Anything uncomfortable and unknown sends of alarm bells and so, fear-based feelings and thoughts show up. It's pretty normal. Once I understood this, I was able to influence my mindset a little better.


"Hey brain, I know you're only trying to protect me because this is something new.

It's okay, I see you. Let's do it anyway."


Visualise How You Want to Feel


To get into flow, taking the time to visualise exactly how you wish to feel in the process is an instant way to connect to your emotions.


A key thing here, notice I didn't say to visualise the outcome you wish to create. While sometimes this can be motivating, you can't actually control the outcome no matter what you do which could lead to greater disappointment, and we're back where we started. So why not focus on what you can actually control, which is you and the input that goes into the next step.


Did you know your brain can't distinguish the difference between something real and something imagined? Now imagine if every time you had a limiting belief show up, you replaced it with strong thoughts, images and feelings of the reality you actually wanted. How much would that shift your life and your character over time?


Learn a Spiritual Practice


To transform this in the long term, we must go through the process of unlearning. Learning a spiritual practice that allows you to connect with something beyond your mind and body is one of the best ways to do so. One year ago, I got serious about yoga and meditation and not the 15-min yoga sequences you see on YouTube. The practices I do now are simple, few and profound and started off with me just sitting in silence for 5-min in the beginning. If you're interested in finding out more, send me a message!


Mantras


Journaling and developing mantras for yourself are a great way to rewire the neurological pathways in our brain and implement new thinking patterns that serve rather than limit us.

A key thing is, they actually need to resonate with you emotionally. Quality over quantity!


Here are some that have been helpful for me when I find myself getting too caught up in overthinking and over-preparing:

  • Everything meant for me will always find its way to me.

  • The possibilities for me are endless!

  • My brain is only trying to protect me, thank you, I see you. Now let’s do this!

By practicing these consistently, over time, your subconscious will start to replace these automatic negative thoughts with empowering ones!


Enjoyed this article?


Share it with a friend who you think would love it too and do reach out -- I'd love to hear your story and what resonated most with you from this article!


Lina


Lina Vasquez is a Holistic Learning Coach, YouTuber and Co-Founder of A Life OnPurpose & LVL Holistic Learning. Her work seeks to revolutionise the education sector by fostering deep, holistic, human connection on a global level; doing so in 7 languages.


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