Language Coach vs Language Teacher: What’s the Difference?

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