Article by Clare Crawford | 1 August 2020

Hmmmm, what can I say about my life today? It’s good! I moved to France almost ten years ago because I met a Frenchman. When we met, I was living and working in the north of England, teaching English Language and Literature at a private day school for girls. I enjoyed working in schools because, as well as spending the day encouraging teenagers to fall in love with their own language, I had the chance to help teachers discover and test new teaching and learning tools and strategies. Those thirteen years in secondary education taught me a lot about the importance of the relationship between teacher and learner and the necessity to connect constantly with the learner’s starting point and personal interests.

When I made the move to France, I decided that it would be easier to move to teaching ESL to adult learners than to try to join the school system in France. I loved it and love it. One key advantage is that I now rarely spend time in a “normal” classroom but instead in really varied environments, from futuristic automotive assembly lines to agricultural research centres buried deep in Lorraine forests, even to steel foundries where the room shakes rhythmically in tandem with the steel presses on the shop floor. I spend an increasing amount of time working online from home too, as timesaving becomes more and more a priority for both clients and myself.

As for most language trainers, a workday during “term-time” is usually jam-packed. It starts relatively gently around 8 am with admin tasks and copious amounts of black coffee. Once I’m feeling relatively human, I begin working with clients at around 8.30 am. Regardless of the physical environment or their professional roles, people are pretty much concerned with the same things: navigating relationships, managing their time and energies and juggling myriad priorities. And often they need someone to listen to them and help them clarify their thinking. Repeated exposure to this need led me to study for a French professional coaching qualification 5 years ago but my true love remains with language learning which led me of course to Neurolanguage coaching. Now I practise both Neurolanguage Coaching and business coaching, but never in the same session!

All that mental exercise needs to be balanced with something physical, so I like to go for a walk once or twice during the day. It’s an essential activity and unless weather conditions are extreme, I’ll get outside. There are several country lanes around where I live so I can just start out from home. The sound of birdsong and the wind is enough to soothe and recharge the batteries. Sometimes I’ll try walking meditations if the surroundings are less than inspiring – it can make a 15- minute walk around a shopping centre into a holiday!

Once the “public” working day finishes at 7 pm, I may do some weight-training or start cooking the evening meal. After dinner, I’ll study some German. I live close to the German border and a lot of my clients also speak a German dialect. It was fascinating to learn on the first Neurolanguage Coaching Certification course about how the brain stores linguistic concepts and it suddenly made sense to me as to why learners were inserting German words in English sentences or making interesting formulations that didn’t follow French or English sentence structures! As I was finally comfortable speaking French (and after meeting so many polyglots on the first NLCC course!) I decided to make German my third language. It’s been around 18 months now and I am progressing slowly, mainly because I’m allocating a very small amount of time each day to it. The next step is to make the leap and find a German- speaking partner. Luckily, I trained with some excellent German-speaking Neurolanguage coaches so I am spoilt for choice.

In the evenings I also do some work for a regional coaching association. The association works to promote the work of qualified coaches and to provide professional development opportunities for its members. I’m involved in organising and promoting events in my region as well as investigating partnerships to provide pro-bono coaching for jobseekers. I’ve also recently joined a local chapter of Toastmasters International and I am a convert! It helps keep me thinking about tools and strategies for developing clients’ skills and confidence in public speaking. Another major benefit to involvement in both associations is that they push me to improve my French speaking skills. I am really lucky with the teams in both associations: the participants are open and supportive of each other’s efforts and that makes it a pleasure to work on developing my own skills and expertise.

This year didn’t take on any intensive courses and my coaching load reduced to about a third so that has left time to overhaul training programmes for stress management and sales communication training for the other side of my professional activity, as well as writing for newsletters(!) and podcasts, blog posts and looking into different resources that could address specific client needs.

I’ll usually climb into bed before 11 pm so that I can read. My bedtime reading habits are for relaxation: I’ve given up feeling guilty that I don’t read great literary works anymore!