What is language coaching?

and how will we work together?


I offer support for self-taught language learners. This is increasingly the way that people learn new languages, enabled by the amazing riches and opportunities that the internet brings.

People often email me for advice on their own self-study programmes and I have noticed a number of problems that come up repeatedly:

So the kind of language-coaching that I offer addresses these meta-problems. If you need, we can probably get into the weeds on why this preposition is used here versus there, but you probably already have a teacher or some kind of textbook that can explain that to you. But we’ll mainly be talking about these meta-issues.

I’ve been interested in language-learning for much of my life. You can see some of the languages I’ve spent time grappling with here. I’ve also been fascinated with the different ways that one can work, think and study, so these two things come together in how I approach language coaching.

I studied Arabic and Farsi/Persian at university, but even in a full-time programme, you’re alone for most of the time, just you and your books. When I moved to Afghanistan, I had to grapple with Pashto, a language for which there were no useful textbooks or study materials at the time. Now I’m comfortable in several languages and I’ve managed to figure out some things that really work.

What to expect

Everyone is unique, so my approach is flexible depending on what goals you want to reach. As a general template, though, we would have an introductory session beforehand where I can explain a little what we’d be doing together. I’m interested in the specifics of what you want to achieve, and this will form the basis of how we’d come up with a plan. This is usually around three months, a sort of custom-tailored language challenge. We’d come up with specific, measurable goals for those three months, and then come up with a template of things to do to achieve those goals. Then every week we’d check in for 30–60 mins to talk about what worked and what didn’t in your studies, refine the next week’s plan and so on.

I don’t charge for the preliminary chat, and it may be that you just need 30–60 mins to talk things through and you don’t need any more. That’s all fine. Sometimes it just helps to talk things through with someone who’s been in the self-study trenches as well. But for checking in every week and the ongoing support, I charge £200 (GBP) per month (i.e. for 4 sessions).

None of this requires we be in the same place, nor does it require me to speak the language you’re learning. All of this tackles the meta-issues that might be holding you back from learning languages faster and more effectively.

Let’s Get Started!

Please get in touch if you have any further questions or to schedule a chat.


Further Reading:

I’ve written about languages often over on my personal blog.

Interviews: Gabriel Wyner / Stephen Krashen / Me, talking with Tammy Bjelland

A Note on Time

We’re all busy, so I’ll help you find the most efficient way to study as we work together. That being said, it will be you doing most of the work. There’s no point sugar-coating the truth that if you want to make decent progress in your studies, you’ll want to be studying around 10–12 hours per week on average.

There’s no way round that: if you put in the time, you will make progress. It’s also a far better use of your money to work with me if you are putting in serious time during the week in between our sessions. If you are only managing an hour or two per week, your progress may be too slow to build up momentum and too slow to justify the extra cost of working with a coach like me.

Testimonials

"I always thought that studying a language such as Pashto would be too difficult for me. I am an Italian native speaker, not very good with languages and memorisation, and often inconsistent in my studies. However, the experience of language coaching proved me wrong. I learnt to read and write a completely unknown alphabet in a couple of weeks. After only a few months, I was already familiar with sounds, vocabulary and even basic grammar. Much credit goes to the method that Alex applies, which he wrote about extensively on his blog. But mainly it is Alex himself. He has been an extremely helpful teacher, able to quickly identify my main learning difficulties and weakness. Over time, he helped me to go beyond them thanks to a focused, personalised approach. His suggestions and advice have been extremely helpful also for my professional life. I have learnt how to be more methodic in my daily tasks, becoming more productive and organised in my work.

- Laura C., Italy

"Alex's style of coaching really helped me to get a quick grasp on Dari. The knowledge he has about how to learn a language, mixed with the tools that he has found to practice, are great together. My previously nonexistent skills in Dari were amped up into short sentences and conversations in a matter of weeks. I would highly recommend his services to anyone looking to learn any language!"

- Claire A., USA

"I completed Middlebury Language School's full immersion summer program. I knew continued focus was essential in language learning. After reading his posts on Middlebury's Facebook about learning techniques, I knew I would benefit from his coaching. The most important thing about Alex and his coaching is he listens and acknowledges your thoughts on how you think you learn best and subsequently comes up with a plan which included my thoughts yet ending up with an improved method given his experience in language learning. We discussed which dialect would benefit me most and why, what apps would help me such as Anki, Fluent Forever literature and suggesting italki for extra Arabic practice with a live conversational coach. Alex went over organizational strategies such as working on vocabulary, conversation, listening, etc. and how much time I should dedicate to each. Further, I was kept accountable for my studies with continued updates via Google Docs advising how much time I spent on vocabulary, conversation, etc. It works: he helps you every step of the way. Thanks Alex!"

- Candice W., USA

"Alex helped me structure my Dari studies on and off through 2016. In that time, my Dari went from abysmal to passable, something I had failed to do on my own in the years of living in Afghanistan. The genius of his program is outsourcing the will power component of language learning that is so hard for everyone. He breaks down the seemingly daunting task of learning a language into reasonable daily tasks, and suddenly things don't seem so overwhelming anymore."

- May J., USA

"I was very happy with the preparation Alex did for our hour-long Skype consultation. ​He filled out a big Google doc with points to cover before we started and found out about all about my previous language learning experience. His experience of learning a range of harder languages, and his deep knowledge of tech, really helped my trace out some of the pitfalls and tools I could use to best improve my Arabic learning. I would wholeheartedly recommend him as language consultant."

- Tom B., UK

"I always considered myself bad at learning languages, despite many attempts at lots of different language classes. I had tried (and given up) learning Persian in the past before I started language coaching with Alex and I'm currently further along in my Persian conversation skills than I've ever been in a language other than English. Alex helps to break down the seemingly insurmountable task of learning a foreign language into a study plan with digestible and realistic steps. Importantly for me, he also helps you develop simple plans to overcome hurdles along the way - a grammatical point you're struggling to grasp, or a crazy work week that makes it difficult to find time to study - so that you keep learning and moving forward."

- Chantal G., New Zealand

"I've always been interested in language learning as a way to understand other people and cultures, but have found it difficult to learn and retain foreign languages using traditional methods. With Alex's approach -- using spaced repetition and various online tools -- and his excellent coaching, I've made significant progress in Dari in the space of six months. Even with minimal time to study, and working in unpredictable circumstances in Afghanistan, I can now read and write basic sentences and interact with my Afghan colleagues in their native tongue. Once a seemingly daunting task, Alex has made Dari study manageable and enjoyable. I highly recommend his methods and coaching to anyone interested in learning a new language."

- Jessica W., USA

"The beauty of Alex's method is that he's exploiting recent science about how we learn. His strategies for slipping words into my memory feel a bit like magic, and it becomes addictive. I've just started and I'm already receiving compliments about my growing fluency. His flexible scheduling and innovative techniques allow me to practice anywhere, anytime. I have pulled out my phone and worked on my language skills while flying in helicopters; riding in armoured vehicles; and even soaking in the bath. It's an excellent system."

- Graeme S., Canada