I continually get asked the question, “What do you do?” whenever I meet new people.
I suppose as well that many who’ve asked before continue to wonder.
It is a complicated answer and one that I myself fumble around to answer whenever I am asked. I usually begin with, “It’s complicated.”
It isn’t so much that it is complicated though as much as it is just not traditional, not something that people can find in their own personal memory bank of “jobs.”
I am a language coach.
(or rather, one of the things that I do is language coaching, among other things)
To explain I’ll begin by way of analogy.
Lebron James has a personal trainer. Why?
Lebron is one of the greatest basketball players ever. He is one of the most athletic, one of the strongest.
Why would he need a personal trainer?
Pastor and author Andy Stanley said,
You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better wend somebody is watching and evaluating.
Lebron knows that he can be better, that a personal trainer can help him get the most out of himself.
As a language coach, I do the same – plus a bit more.
You see, Lebron knows basketball. You could say he is an expert.
Most learning another language however are not experts. Most don’t know where to begin.
Ask yourself, “If I were to want to learn Russian, what would I do? Where would I begin?”
If you are like most learners, you are probably drawing a blank – or you’ve gone to the only idea you’ve ever known – I’d go to school.
As a language coach I would with clients in six main areas:
- New Learning Ideas
- New Resources for Learning
When I work with a client, I help them create a plan for learning which usually begins by helping them understand how they learn best – in a classroom or out in the community, alone (mostly) or in a group, with lots of technology or with less technology.
I help them think about creating a learning plan for the next six months, for the next month, for the next week and for each day. We break it down.
I give learning strategies and drills and activities that they can use to focus on mastering the different elements of any language.
In this sense, I am never teaching a specific language but empowering people to be able to learn any language.
I help people find new resources – readily abundant and mostly free – to learn their particular language.
Language coaching is also about holding learners accountable to the plan we’ve created and about helping them stay motivated.
In the end, language coaching is mostly about helping people successfully learn another language as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Around the World
Most of my clients are overseas. They are mostly working for non-profits and church organizations.
And so my coaching sessions are all online through Skype.
This morning I met with a client in Istanbul. He was sitting in Starbucks with his iPhone, I was at home in my basement with my laptop.
I could see him, he could see me and for just over an hour we talked about how the language learning journey was going, about where he could be more effective and where he was doing well.
I gave him ideas for activities he could do, for ways to make his daily interaction with the building security guard a better language learning experience. I’ve sent him three or four articles from my website, The Everyday Language Learner, for further reading to expand on topics we discussed.
It is always a rewarding experience to know that I have helped someone step into another day of mastering a language with more hope, with less fear and with new knowledge for getting the most out of the day.
I meet with clients about once a month for an hour and my goal continues to be to work up to 30 clients.
It also provides a bit of income.
Not enough to pay all the bills but enough to keep doing it.
Language coaching is really what I love to do. It allows me to continue to be a part of the work we did in Turkey and to play my part to help others even as we’ve returned to small town South Dakota.
It’s just one of the jobs that I have.