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Interview with a language coach

Interview with a language coach

How to enhance your success with Business Language Coaching

Cologne, April 23, 2019 – Launched in 2016, Business Language Coaching by Learnship enables corporate employees to be as natural and impactful in English as in their native language. Working for Learnship since 2011, Sylvie Jeanloz was one of our first business language coaches – and she is still providing language coaching and intercultural training. Here she speaks about how language coaching helps you to become more successful in your job.

Can you tell us about your personal background?

Sylvie Jeanloz: For over twenty years, I worked in direct practice and management, including working as an adjunct and then assistant professor at Columbia University, in organizations dedicated to helping individuals and families develop the skills needed to effectively cope with life’s chronic, crisis, and situational challenges. Back in the 1990s, I was trained in intercultural awareness, teambuilding and conflict resolution. I started developing workshops and training others. Moving to France, I got my CELTA certificate to teach English to non-English natives. Then I started coaching with senior level executives in international negotiation. I also have a background in psychology – and a practice for individual and group therapy. This really helps me as a coach, because I can get in touch with the challenges that people face when they are not as successful in a foreign language as they are when using their native language.

Why did you join Learnship?

Sylvie Jeanloz: I’m not a big believer in phone lessons. Learnship has something very different: it’s got an online platform, and it’s got the face-to-face training format – this makes a big difference.

How would you describe language coaching in one sentence?

Sylvie Jeanloz: Language coaching is helping people develop and use the skills that have enabled them to be successful in their native language, in whatever language they’re being coached in.

Who are the typical language coachees?

Sylvie Jeanloz: They are mainly managers and executive managers. However, especially in the case of two American Internet giants we are working with, a lot of my coachees are not higher-rank managers, but people very motivated to succeed professionally and looking ahead. I’ve worked with several employees from France, Germany, Asia, South America. They realize that to be truly successful within an international environment, they must know how to use the English language effectively.

What do people ask for when taking language coaching?

Sylvie Jeanloz: It varies depending on the job. Anything that would help them to enhance their success. Often, it’s being able to build professional relationships, engaging in both spontaneous and planned discussions, writing reports, and developing and giving formal and less formal presentations, including answering questions. I work with people on using language that is going to convey what they intend to convey. We’ll work on style and intonation, too. English is a musical language. When speaking English, people from certain cultures can sound very monotone to an English-native speaker, until they are being coached.

What do people get out of language coaching?

Sylvie Jeanloz: People increase their self-confidence, and this has a positive domino effect: the better they feel, the more they’re willing to take risks and try different skills. When those prove successful, they’re even happier. I have met people who have been promoted to a higher level, who have told me that their improved English language skills were a major factor in their promotion.

Can you give us a concrete example?

Sylvie Jeanloz: I had a French person who felt that his constructive criticism wasn’t being well received by his team of Americans. This is because in the U.S., we use a sandwich approach to providing constructive criticism: the pieces of bread are something positive – something truthful, and the meat represents the concern. For example: “Most of the report is very much on target, great job! But let’s take a look at the second page; it doesn’t quite make sense, so I think it needs to be reworked, however I can see the kind of effort you’ve put into this, and I really appreciate it.” Positive, then concern, followed by positive. Some French coachees have shared that they experienced this as dishonest and feel that they’re set up by being told something positive, only to have the focus shift to the negative. In the U.S., we see it as providing balanced feedback. We really practiced with this person on how to deliver constructive criticism, and within a month he was saying “I can’t believe they’re so open to my criticism now”.

Finally, if you were to give one piece of advice as a language coach, what would it be?

Sylvie Jeanloz: It sounds so obvious, and I guess this would be true in any country: it would be to know your audience, and how to engage them. Who is your audience, what is your goal? For instance, if your goal is to market a particular product, what would you want the person to take away from your presentation? An interest in the product, an understanding of the product? Then the advice would be to keep your goal in mind, and to communicate in such a way that will enable you to achieve your goal.


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