In December 2022 I decided to undertake a language coaching certification to continue learning and adding new tools as a coach. After researching the training options available online, I came across Rachel Paling’s website and her Neurolanguage Coaching® method. It combines neuroscience research and findings on how we learn better with principles and tools from coaching, in order to teach languages more effectively. The goal of the method is to create the best conditions for the learner to acquire a foreign language in a relaxed, efficient, and enjoyable manner.
I first learned about this method through Luca Toma’s website, who’s a certified Neurolanguage Coach® in Japanese and Italian. I loved the way he presents himself online, and the approach and methodology made a lot of sense to me. The more I learned about this type of language coaching, the more I liked it. I got one of Rachel’s books and decided to join her first training course of 2023, starting on January 4th. We had 15 training sessions across six weeks, finishing on February 9th.
During the first week of the course, we learn the fundamentals of Life Coaching as presented and transmitted by the ICF (International Coaching Federation). By the way, Neurolanguage Coaches® are accredited by the ICF. It’s good to know that the coaching principles and tools we learn here are supported by an organization with high professional standards. The International Coaching Federation was founded in 1995 and is widely recognized all over the world as a leading organization for both accreditation and certification of coaches. Beyond this accreditation, Neurolanguage Coaches® are certified by Efficient Language Coaching®.
The January 2023 Cohort
This was a very international cohort, with students from all across the world. I liked that variety! All the students were very passionate about learning and teaching languages. Some of them are translators and interpreters, others are language teachers. In the first week of the training, we had our first individual interactions in the break-out rooms. Rachel also made it easy for us to meet each other outside class hours, pairing us to practice for the first few weeks. I got to meet very nice people (my future colleagues)!
Goal-Setting & Neuroscience
During the second week of the training, we worked on goal-setting coaching and started learning about the brain: neuroscience, brain chemistry, learning, and the triune brain model. This is a very complex topic, but we’re not training to become neuroscientists 😊. For that reason, Rachel was very selective and kept the information to the essentials. The goal was to understand better the fundamentals of how the brain works, and how we can use that to learn and help others to learn more efficiently (in this case, foreign languages).
One thing I liked about the Neurolanguage Coaching® training is that we also used the break-out rooms to discuss and teach each other what we were learning. This was a very important part, given that in the future we are going to have these conversations with our coachees. Rachel makes it clear: it’s critical that not only the coach knows how the brain works in relation to language learning, but also the coachee. For that reason, part of the work of the language coach here will be to educate the client on these topics when necessary.
The Emotional Brain & The Perfect Learning State
The third week of the training was all about the emotional brain and social pain, something that may arise in the coaching sessions as (painful) language learning memories. We also learned about eight triggers that may come up in the conversations with our coachee. It’s essential for us as coaches to be able to accurately identify them and to respond skillfully. That’s something that takes time and practice, and we started right away alternating both roles in break-out rooms, playing out different scenarios. Before practicing that, Rachel demonstrated with one of us each one of the situations. That helped a lot! It’s great to see a skillful coach in action 😀.
During this week, we also talked about the perfect learning state. Some key elements: having the right level of attention, memory formation, the role of positive emotions, spacing the learning, the learning journey towards mastery, and the flow state. The latter state, coined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is of uttermost importance for language learning. That’s what can make the biggest difference in continuing learning a language and working towards our goals, or giving up on that. As coaches, we want to promote this perfect learning state during our sessions and encourage our clients to tune into it when practicing their target language during the week.
Learning Preferences & The First Session
In the fourth week of the training, we explored learning styles and how their role in language learning. Even though language students have different learning preferences, it doesn’t seem to be the case that there’s one perfect learning style for each one of us (as it was thought in the past decades). For that reason, nowadays, the idea of being a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner is considered a neuromyth. A widespread belief about the brain and learning, but with no scientific support. Our goal, as educators, should be to find out the personal learning preferences of each individual (how they like to learn better), and take them into account at the moment of having our clients choose their language learning activities.
The first session of a Neurolanguage Coaching® process has a specific structure. Its primary goal is to create a roadmap for the language learner. The coach explains how this method works and what they’re going to do in the course of the first session. Then, there’s a short exchange on motivation, in order to identify the motivation sources of the learner. After this, the coach will explain the mechanical goals and the mastery goals according to the Neurolanguage Coaching® method. Together, they will set mechanical goals and mastery goals, both with their respective actions. Finally, the coach will package all the goals (mechanical and mastery) and ask the coachee by when will she or he want to achieve these goals, and how frequently they are going to meet. The session ends after checking for a last time the commitment and motivation of the client.
Mechanical Goals & Mastery Goals
During the fifth week of the training, we learned to set mechanical and mastery goals, and did a full first session. In the Neurolanguage Coaching® approach, the mechanical goals are those connected to grammar, the structures of the language, and pronunciation. On the other hand, the mastery goals are related to the functional aspects of the language, and how it is going to be applied in real life by the coachee. All these goals are chosen by the client. The coach gently guides the language learners through a series of questions to help them get to their individual goals.
On February 2nd, Rachel conducted one full demo session with one of the students. It was great to finally be able to see what the full first session looks like and how all the pieces come together.
Scheduling, PACT PCQ & Ongoing Sessions
This was the last week of the training. We learned to create a schedule for the coaching process, how to conduct a goal review, and how to deliver the ongoing sessions. Rachel’s PACT PQC method —which stands for Placement, Assessment, Conversation, Teach, Powerful Questions, and Clarification— provides the framework to work on the mechanical goals. In Rachel’s words, “the PACT PQC model will allow going through any grammatical topic in a flowing, non-threatening, and extremely enjoyable coaching conversation.” This is one of the hallmarks of Neurolanguage Coaching®. This week, we started practicing these wonderful conversations to transfer grammatical knowledge in the coaching sessions.
We also learned and practiced about working on non-grammar topics and how to perform the coaching in the mastery goals. During the previous weekend, I started practicing with other peer students, delivering the whole first session. It was great to finally be able to put everything together to conduct this first session.
After participating in all the learning sessions for this training (15 live lessons), the next step is the certification. We are asked to conduct and record a first session and send it to Efficient Language Coaching for review. If everything goes well after that, one becomes a Neurolanguage Coach®.
I’m very excited for having completed this training and look forward to getting certified soon. This was the end of a great learning experience, and the beginning of a new path to continue helping and empowering learners 😃🤓.