Could this method help if you lack confidence in learning French?

'I feel like it’s part therapy and part French'

Many learners lose confidence if they do not progress quickly
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Learning French can be tough. Many people assume that once they move to France, they will soak up the language easily, but the reality can often be far more difficult. 

We take a look at a method helping some people who have lost their confidence face their fears of learning French. 

What is Neurolanguage Coaching®?

Neurolanguage Coaching® combines principles of teaching, neuroscience and coaching to create a different learning environment to the traditional classroom. 

“We try to recreate the perfect learning state in your brain,” Hanaé Loison, a French teacher based in Paris, who switched to teaching French using the method since 2021, told The Connexion

In traditional language learning, “the focus is on the teacher who knows everything about the language and tries to transfer it, and in this method the focus is on the learner who is an expert in their life and the way they will use the language. We try to identify why they want to learn the language,” she says. 

“I feel like it’s part therapy and part French,” says reflexologist Sarah Scaddan, 53, who moved to Geneva 15 years ago for her husband’s job and has struggled to learn French in the past. 

“I don’t dread it, which is amazing in itself because you feel like you’re learning about yourself as well as about the language that you’re trying to learn so we would work out how I learn.” 

Read more: The science behind why it is never too late to learn French

How does it differ from a traditional classroom setting?

“The relationship between the teacher – the “coach” – and the learner is really different from the traditional setting. I say it’s more like a team,” Ines Lluch Del Campo, who is based near Toulouse and teaches French online, tells The Connexion

She says the role of the coach is not about telling the student what you, as the teacher, know and what they should learn, as is the case with a traditional language teacher. 

“It’s more about creating a very customised experience based on the motivation, the reason why the person is learning, and what they should learn to reach their goals.” 

“We try to start with what the learner knows already and what they want to know,” French teacher Hanaé Loison says. 

“Language is infinite – even in your own language you can forget words and discover new words so when you learn a new language we look at the areas the learner wants to discover and why they want to speak the language.” 

Read more: Six tongue twisters to test your French

Benefits of the method 

Good for those who do not thrive in a traditional classroom setting 

Ms Lluch del Campo says many of her students find her after attempting to learn French in a more traditional classroom setting. 

“They’ve tried different things and they feel like they don’t fit in the class setting or there is something wrong and they think it’s their fault. They think ‘I don’t fit, so I’m the problem’, she says. 

Ms Loison agrees. “Many people decide to give up learning French or other languages and they feel incapable of learning a language. (This) is a good approach to give them a new confidence in their language skills and in their learning skills,” she says. 

Read more: READER TIPS: How long should it take to learn French?

Builds confidence 

Confidence plays a huge part in learning a language, and once your confidence has been dented, it is often hard to build back up.

Sarah Scaddan lost confidence when she did not pick up French as quickly as she thought she would after moving to Geneva 15 years ago. 

“I really assumed that I would just pick it up from living in a French-speaking area,” she tells The Connexion. “I had French lessons straight away and then didn’t pick it up at all and it just became harder and harder because I was not feeling confident, and then I would try my French out on people who wouldn’t understand me and that would damage my confidence even further.” 

Scaddan says she realised she had developed a phobia of speaking French, but with an aim of obtaining Swiss nationality, she needed to change her mentality.

Discourages negativity

“The first thing (my teacher) worked on was my negative self-image. I wasn’t allowed to say anything like “pathetic” or use any negative words about myself and about my inability to learn French,” Ms Scaddan says. 

“It was a long process – if I said ‘I’m so stupid!’ or ‘why can’t I learn this?!’ she asked me to stop saying that and that made a huge difference. When you stop berating yourself constantly… that was really refreshing.” 

Tailors learning to the student and their goals 

Next, Ms Scaddan was encouraged to think about how she learned best. 

We talked about “different ways of looking at how my brain works and how I learn a language that’s just unique to me,” she says. 

Her goal was to take the language exam that would enable her to apply for Swiss citizenship. “The first goal was just for me to have the courage to apply,” she says. 

Her confidence has improved so much she recently felt ready to sit the language test.

“This week I passed the test that I thought I would never, ever pass,” she says. “I’m so ecstatic, I got the results yesterday and I never even thought I’d go for the test, never mind pass it.”

She says she has recommended Neurolanguage Coaching® to lots of people, especially for the effect it has had on her confidence. 

“I'm just more accepting and more content with the situation and not getting stressed or feeling nauseous about being in a French-speaking environment,” she says. 

Read more: Tricks to get the gender of nouns correct in French

Takes into account specific needs 

This method can help people who have more focused needs, rather than a desire to learn general grammar and vocabulary. 

“Some people who have very specific needs don’t want to spend time learning something that is irrelevant, vocabulary-wise for example,” says Lluch del Campo. 

A quicker method of learning French?

Neurolanguage Coaching® also claims to be a quicker way to learn French – its emphasis on defined goals means students have a more focused learning path. 

“I work with clients in companies who have to use French at work so who have really specific goals and need to improve their skills in a short time and they need to see effects really fast,” says Ms Loison. 

“Even if we can’t learn a language in one month, we can see real effects in 12 sessions, because we have really specific goals so we can work on communication, on emails, on phone calls, and my clients can see the effects really fast.” 

Drawbacks of Neurolanguage Coaching®

Emphasis on the student 

While many students, like Ms Scaddan, thrive by taking control of their own learning, this method is not for everyone. 

“At the beginning clients can be a bit confused because it’s the first time someone has asked them “how do you prefer to learn? Would you prefer traditional exercises or only conversation?” says French teacher Hanaé Loison. 

“Clients can say ‘but what do you think?’ and ‘what is better for me?’ and I answer ‘I don’t know, I don’t know what is better for you’. We have to discover it together.” 

Ms Loison says in her time teaching two people have said the method was not for them, and they preferred working in the traditional way, “but most people decide to continue, even if at the beginning it's difficult for them to express what they want”. 

Read more: How long should it take to learn French for everyday use?

Different to traditional classroom setting 

Lluch del Campo says while some students do not respond to the traditional classroom setting when learning French, others love it, so would not be suited to the coaching method. 

“(Maybe) they like to be driven 100% and want to be in a classroom and follow the track,” she said, adding some students prefer not to take full responsibility for their own learning. 

To find a teacher trained in this method, check its network of coaches.