Helping Frustrated and Fearful Language Learners Find What Works — Lesley Hossner
I’m Lesley Hossner. I live in Hertfordshire, England about half an hour north of London and 40 minutes west of Cambridge. I am married with 3 grown-up children and 6 grandchildren! (I don’t know how that happened so quickly….) I love to travel and until 3 years ago, I worked in a job which took me around the world.
Hi Lesley, tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you first get started teaching languages?
I never wanted to teach children, and avoided the training after studying languages and social psychology at uni! I worked in retail and manufacturing and used my French on the ground. When I was at home with babies, I started coaching and was asked to take an adult GCSE class at the local adult community college. In those days, formal qualifications weren’t necessary, so I taught by instinct and my class all got A’s.
In those days, formal qualifications weren’t necessary, so I taught by instinct and my class all got A’s.
I later ran my own company, Languages In Business, and we taught in workplaces such as GSK, Motorola and Roche. It grew fast, and I had numerous teachers working with me. We used Accelerated Learning methods and courses, and the clients loved it, because they were able to use their travelling time for listening and really get the most out of face-to-face tutor time. I trained the teachers in the approach and we were very successful. It became less profitable as travel costs rose and I wanted my freedom back so I found someone to take over the clients and moved on.
I can completely understand your preference to focus on maximizing tutoring time. I can imagine how it was popular with businesses. I personally feel like a lot of time can be lost in a language learning setting when the curriculum is not well-structured.
That’s interesting, because the way I coach is not structured, but the learning process is. In my sessions, I respond to what has come up for the client (which sometimes is an imminent meeting or presentation), but I guide them back to the process for self-study. I can’t learn for them — just activate and guide WHAT they learn.
Okay, so you can tell me more about what you do now?
After working in London for 10 years, I decided to work freelance again and spent some time helping technical clients to improve their English presentation and writing skills to enhance their career progression.
During the pandemic, everyone went online, and I decided to go back to my first love of coaching English speakers to learn foreign languages. I work one-to-one mostly with expats who are already working in Germany, France or Spain, or ‘trailing spouses’ who want to be able to make real connections and express themselves in the new language. It’s about being able to say what they need rather than what a teacher thinks they need to learn!
During the pandemic, everyone went online, and I decided to go back to my first love of coaching English speakers to learn foreign languages.
I really like your focus on what the student thinks they need. If people are in a situation where they need to use the language regularly, then they probably really value your flexibility and customized service.
I think this is key. And my flexible lifestyle is really important to me as well!
You briefly told me that you don’t focus on ongoing client relationships and that you focus on improving your client language skills over a brief period of time. Can you tell us what that looks like?
I see myself as a catalyst for learning the language — helping the client to make a transformation rather than leading them slowly through the process. My approach gives them the responsibility and skills to progress quickly and not be reliant on the teacher-led ‘drip-feed’ approach they might be used to or expect.
I see myself as a catalyst for learning the language — helping the client to make a transformation rather than leading them slowly through the process.
It sounds like you’re teaching your clients how to learn a language. Can you tell us in more detail what that looks like?
I help the client to take stock — to define what they want and need to be able to say, and work on setting up strategies that will work for them. We explore what makes them tick, what time they have available and how they like to learn. I will coach them to visualise what success looks and feels like and how to relax into the process and enjoy the journey. Learning various ways of listening and focusing is very important. One of the major components is helping them to learn to listen in a variety of ways. To learn the cadence of the language, to focus on what’s important for them, and then to revisit grammar in CONTEXT.
That sounds fascinating. I can see how that can really help frustrated and fearful language learners. Obviously, learning a language can happen so much more quickly if you can have an immersive experience. It sounds like that’s what you help your clients create.
I help the client to take stock — to define what they want and need to be able to say, and work on setting up strategies that will work for them.
You and I both connected over how important movement is to helping someone learn. Can you tell us what you do to infuse movement into your own lessons?
Interestingly, most clients I work with are living surrounded by the new language, so I’m helping them to notice where to focus and make the most of it. Much of my job is helping with confidence issues!
Oh, thanks for explaining the online component of this. I had wondered what that would look like in an online environment. It’s a good point that breath work is known to increase memory retention. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about your teaching career?
More of a challenge in the online space, but I will encourage simple brain gym exercises, breathing, taking breaks and listening while walking. Actively making notes is movement, and I teach mindmapping as part of the programme.
It’s not something I’ve focused on so much lately — thank you for reminding me! I am planning some guided visualisation to use before a listening session and to help embed the learning. I am trying to keep the tech to a minimum as people are so overwhelmed right now, so I use WhatsApp voice notes a lot.
That’s an interesting question. I think I’d be bolder and clearer about what I know to be true sooner and not try to please people. I can’t be the right coach for everyone, but I am perfect for some!
That’s such a good point, and a good reminder for anyone with their own business. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
I miss working face to face, and my plan is to offer short intensive VIP courses in their own country once I can travel again.
Oh yes, I dream of travel a lot these days too.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Website: www.lesleyhossner.com (currently under re-construction)
Email: lesleyexpression [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lesley-hossner1 (my favourite platform!!)
Clubhouse: [ at ] lesleyhossner