Why I’d never refer to my clients as ‘students’​

I have a mixed relationship with the word ‘student’ in the context of my work.

I’m a language teacher: a German and Hungarian language trainer and coach. I run a boutique language training company called ProLingua Global. My typical clients are executives in the financial services industry. 

They turn to me not necessarily because they NEED to learn German or Hungarian.

Let’s be honest: in the world of finance, everyone speaks English. However, they WANT to learn the language of their colleagues and partners. Why? Because they’re fed up with feeling like an outsider when in Hungary or Germany.

Through coaching my clients, I’ve learnt a lot about the world of banking and insurance, asset and wealth management. And I also developed a genuine interest in these fields.

Working with executives, I was taken aback by seeing the sense of responsibility that rests upon their shoulders and the dedication that’s required to lead a company. I see how they do their utmost best to ensure stakeholders are happy and that their people are empowered. They take risks and make hard decisions every day. They trust their intuition and follow their guts.

I find it incredibly inspiring when I see their desire to not only lead and develop their company but also use their time and position to do something for the greater good.

I’ve learnt a great deal from them through our conversations, both about the world of banking and finance as well as about leadership, decision making, strategical thinking, communication styles and much much more.

As a language teacher, I’ve helped my clients to prepare for important meetings, events, business trips. I’ve helped them to get from scratch to understanding industry publications. I’ve helped them to take part in email conversations and panel discussions. I’ve prepared clients for thank-you-speeches at award ceremonies. Some clients wanted to learn how to make a favourable first impression at diplomatic events. Others have been working with me for over 10 years, enjoying the fluency they acquired – and through that, the appreciation of their foreign colleagues.

My point is that I learn as much from my clients (if not more) as they learn from me. Referring to them as ‘my students’ just doesn’t feel right. 

We are equal partners in the process of learning German or Hungarian.

If you’re a fellow language teacher, can you relate?
If you’re a language learner, what’s your take on this perspective?

Let me know in the comments below and let’s start a productive conversation.


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