Studying English is usually the last thing my clients want to do. Many of them have been taking English classes all their lives, trying to learn correct pronunciation or which prepositions to use. They’ve spent so much time and money on their English learning, yet still feel uncomfortable speaking up in meetings or trying to make small talk. It can be really frustrating and sometimes it feels like a waste of time to keep trying. Although I completely understand that, I’d like to explain how hiring an English coach can save you time, make you feel more confident, and provide you with a community of support.

Why is an English coach better than a traditional ESL teacher?

First, let’s talk about the difference between a typical ESL teacher and a professional English coach.

In a traditional school setting, the teacher decides what to teach and the students have no control over the topics covered or the methods of learning. The class objectives are designed to teach the language but produce generic results that aren’t useful in daily life, like a letter grade on a test or a research paper. Also, if a student doesn’t pass an assignment or only partially understands what is being taught, the class keeps going even if that student can’t keep up.

An English coach, on the other hand, helps you with the specific problems you’re having. So as the client, you choose what to work on, the schedule, and the kind of help you want. For example, one of my clients recently asked for help with proofreading the subtitles on a documentary film he’d made. He chose the topic (his film), the schedule (10 days), and the kind of help he wanted (feedback on his writing). What this means for clients is that they can get the specific results they need in the timeline that they need it. Nothing extra.

In addition, most English coaches have some kind of specialty that they focus on. It can be a particular group of people (native Spanish speakers), or a particular area of English (speaking skills), or a particular industry (business English). Finding a coach who specializes in what’s important to you means that you save even more time because you’re getting help from someone that already understands your specific language problems and the kind of help you need to solve them.

What can an English coach do for me?

The first thing a good English coach should offer is personalized feedback. As I explained in the first section, the purpose of coaching is to help you reach a specific goal by offering written or verbal feedback and strategies that you can use to succeed.

For example, I had a client who was having trouble at work because he was arguing with his coworkers during meetings. His boss asked him to get some coaching, so we talked about strategies he could use to make his points in a more acceptable way. Part of the problem he was having was cultural. He was an older Chinese man working with a lot of younger people from other parts of the world. He didn’t feel respected and this made him angry. The other part of his problem was his English. He didn’t know how to quickly say what he was thinking and he got frustrated.

It’s often difficult for English learners to get helpful, honest feedback in the workplace. Correcting a coworker can be uncomfortable, so most people avoid it. An English coach can give advice on how to use the language correctly and the cultural rules to follow. As we worked together, he was gradually able to change his approach and got much more positive reviews at work. His attitude and his confidence really improved once he knew how to change the situation.

The second thing a good language coach should provide is an opportunity to practice in a safe environment. There’s no chance to practice in an online course, and it can be difficult to get personal attention in a classroom setting. Another one of my clients is a UX designer and often has to present new features of her app in meetings. In addition to knowing all the terminology of her industry, she has to be able to talk about her app in a very short period of time and answer questions about it. She started working with me because she didn’t feel confident about her speaking skills and her use of industry terms. Now, before she gives a presentation, she practices with me first so she can get feedback on her pronunciation, speaking style, and word usage. This has helped her to anticipate problems and feel more confident during presentations.

The third thing a good language coach can provide is community. Many coaches are now hosting communities of people with similar problems to support each other and learn together. If possible, choose a coach that offers group practice sessions or a private Facebook group with other learners whose interests and goals are similar to yours.

How should I choose an English coach?

Now that I’ve talked about how an English coach can save you time, make you feel more confident, and provide you with a community of support, I’d like to make a few suggestions about how to choose a coach.

As I mentioned in the first section, most coaches specialize in some way. What this means for you, is that you need to decide which area of your English learning you want to focus on most and what results you’d like to see. Let’s imagine that you’re a native Arabic speaker that wants help writing a resume for a job at an investment company. You can choose a coach that specializes in Arabic, in resume writing, or in business English. If you shop around, you may be able to find someone who does all three! So take some time to think about what your focus is and what kind of specialty you want your coach to have.

Next, you need to know where to look for coaches. One option is to look on language marketplace sites, like iTalki and Verbling, where you can find a lot of tutors/coaches and search for ones with your specialty. Of course, you can also use a search engine like Google to try to find a coach, but it can sometimes be difficult to choose the best search words to get the results you want. Social media is another option since many coaches have pages on Facebook or LinkedIn or a channel on YouTube. Again, once you have decided on the areas you want to focus on, it will be easier to know what terms to search for.

Once you find a coach with your specialty, try to set up a free trial lesson. Many online coaches and tutors offer a short trial lesson which will let you talk about your goals and get a feeling for the coach’s style. After the trial lesson, the coach should create a learning plan for you so you know exactly what to expect. If you find a coach you like, you can invite your friends or coworkers to work with the same coach. Then you can ask your coach to give you the chance to practice with other learners and start creating a community for your area of interest.

For example, my specialty is working with artist and designers, so I have a free community called The Studio that learners can join.  We have a private Facebook group where they can support each other, discuss art and design topics, or ask questions. I also host a group video chat once a month for group members to practice their speaking. All you have to do to join is sign up for my newsletter! It’s totally free and comes with a lot of other great benefits.

Tell your friends!

Now that I’ve explained how hiring an English coach can save you time, make you feel more confident, and provide you with a community of support, I’d like to hear from you! Have you ever worked with a coach? Can you think of other ways to find a good coach? Tell us about it in the comments or share this post with someone that might be interested!