I’ve been a language teacher for over 5 years. I’ve taught English, Tagalog, and even Spanish (I was strong-armed by my school, I swear). I wear a lot of hats at Refold: copywriter, assistant, and marketer. And now, when I proudly tell people I’m no longer a teacher, but a coach, the reaction I get is, “wait, what’s the difference?”
Teachers vs Coaches
A teacher has a set curriculum that is the same for every student in the class or program. Their job is to teach the book and fulfill the curriculum. They’re great at training people how to pass tests or exams.
On the other hand, a coach is more multidimensional. Coaches work with the students, often 1:1, to harness their natural attributes and sharpen weak points. To use a food analogy, a teacher is a TV dinner, a coach is a homemade meal made just the way you like it.
- Teach skills
- Spread information
- Metrics like tests and grades
- Help develop abilities
- Share methods
- No arbitrary metrics
Does this mean teachers are bad? No! Heavens no, teachers are the backbone of our society. They serve a purpose for the advancement of knowledge and do very well. The truth is that coaches and teachers are just different. Think about it, classrooms have teachers, football fields have coaches. Have you ever heard of a football teacher? Some things need to be taught from the ground up and rely on building upon prior knowledge. An algebra teacher is working under the assumption that their students have the fundamentals of arithmetic under their belts.
Language doesn’t work this way.
Think about when you were a child, first learning to speak. Many of us didn’t start formal schooling until 4 to 6 years old. We weren’t taught how to speak or socialize, yet we still acquired our first languages, learned how to play kickball, and socialize.
Sure, some things are taught better with explicit instruction, like math, science, and most other academic subjects. However, other skills, like language, are best taught implicitly, with input.
Language learning is challenging because you’re not just learning one skill. Instead, you need to learn hundreds of skills at the same time, and everyone learns these skills differently. Immersion learning helps you acquire all these skills at the same time in ways that textbooks can’t. Teaching one skill is tough enough, but hundreds?
As a language coach, I give my students the individualized instruction they need to optimize their immersion. If they’re struggling with a certain skill, I’ll help them assess how to reinforce that skill and train them on the tools they need to “work out” those skills on their own. If my students need help finding immersion materials, I work with them to help them find what they need. If they need help staying focused, I help them prioritize their time.
So to recap: if your goal is to pass a test, go with a teacher — if your goal is true ability in a language, a coach is what you need.