Imagine for a moment that you invite me over to your house for dinner. What would you cook for me? If you were looking for a job, this might be a question a recruiter would ask in an “extreme interview” setting. Let’s imagine you know nothing about me. Am I a vegetarian? Am I allergic to some kind of food? Is there anything that I despise? Is there anything that, because of my beliefs, I’d rather not eat?
My reaction to these questions would be that I would either try to get more information from you or cook a variety of dishes so that you would have the option to choose. Some meat, different vegetables, some carbs. I would also put some spices and sauces on the table so that you could season your meal to your liking. It wouldn’t really matter what my “best dish” is.
So, you might be wondering what this has to do with language teaching. Everything! Imagine for a moment that a learner comes to you and requests your services; he or she knows nothing of the language, but wants to learn it. What could you offer to them?
From my long experience as a language teacher and Accelerated Learning Facilitator, as well as my short time as a Neurolanguage Coach®, I have met people who know exactly what they need and they will express these needs without any fear, without any doubt. The latest was “I want to write an essay for NASA because I want to enter a contest. If I win, I will go to Houston to check their installations and see the launching of a space ship to the Moon.” “Wow…”, was all I could say to that.
However, I have also met some learners who have no idea what they want or need because they know nothing of the target language and they know basically nothing of grammar about their mother tongue. One of the alternatives I have tried is to get information from them in order to set their mechanical and mastery goals and then present them with different options such as: start with the verb To Be, start with routines; start with what I’m doing now. Almost always, the answer has been the same: “I don’t know teacher, you are the expert. I just want to start learning English.” It is just as if you knew nothing of Mexican food: there is such a huge variety that I just wouldn’t know what to suggest. Perhaps I would at least try to be gentle with you and your stomach!
Luckily, some months ago I came across this wonderful approach: Neurolanguage Coaching®. It has provided me with a new “recipe” to offer my guests so that I can expand my buffet of possibilities. I now ask: “Are you a new learner? Do you want one-to-one sessions but you don’t know where to start?” Then I would tell them: “I can offer you NLC and take you by the hand with my special expertise of the language. We will be building your mechanical and mastery goals little by little.”
Then I would continue: “Are you an intermediate or even advanced learner with clear goals about the language? Welcome to NLC! Tell me what you need and I will direct you towards your language improvement, whether it is on one-to-one sessions or in a small group.
I would ask; “Would you rather work with a book? Yes, we can do that: we will do some suggested activities in class and some others that you will do on your own and then have friendly conversations during our sessions, following the principles of Neurolanguage Coaching®.”
“Moreover, I have another dish for you on my menu. Are you a beginner, but prefer group sessions and want to know the basics of the language? I can offer you my program with Accelerated Learning, where you will enjoy every session as you start to take the first steps while you have lots of fun sharing with others. This program will take you through a story to follow, an adventure to thrill you and a series of activities and games which will hook you in such a way that you won’t want to miss a class until you feel comfortable as you communicate in everyday situations and have a clear goal about where else you want to go with the language.
Some 20 years ago, I created a program called A Voyage of Discovery. This has now evolved thanks to all the digital tools I have learned, basically due to this situation of confinement. Until recently, this program was only given face-to-face, because I thought Accelerated Learning couldn’t be given online, since it requires the use of tangible and manipulative materials, like flash cards, toys and even disguises, as well as posters, music and board games. Now I know for sure I can bring it digitally, on live sessions through Zoom, and I will start with Take Off, especially designed for those who want to start speaking English. It is for learners of English as a Foreign Language whose mother tongue is Spanish because the texts are bilingual; this helps to reduce fear of the new language.
So now I can invite you over for dinner at my place. I can offer you the typical Mexican smorgasbord: a taquiza. I will cook different dishes: vegetarian, with different kinds of meat, spicy sauces and condiments so that you can prepare your very personalized tacos with flour or maize tortillas, so that you learn about our very special cuisine.