Bio: Elena Agori specializes in online language coaching for international professionals. She has a MA in Teaching English and Cambridge CELTA, plus more than 10 years of experience in corporate language training in Russia, the USA, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. She is working on creating a learning environment that will provide more opportunities for women’s leadership. She is constantly learning about new instructional tools and she finds the pandemic times an unprecedented moment for personal and professional growth. agori-elc.com
How long have you been a member of BESIG and why did you join?
I have known about BESIG since 2013 and was impressed with the highest level of professionalism of their leadership. Evan Frendo’s book on teaching business English that I read in 2012 was one of the most helpful resources for me at that time. No matter how long you have been in your profession, there is always room for improvement.
What’s the difference between teaching business English in a country where English is the first language to a country where English is a foreign language?
Since I moved to the US, my teaching became more focused on the local culture and the diversity of American accents. But the main shift was in the core content I started using, such as the Harvard Business School and MIT case study method, and the local mass media. Efficiency is not just a word for executives seeking to upscale their English communicative skills. On the contrary, when I was teaching in Russia, I noticed that my clients were more willing to use coursebooks rather than authentic materials.
You have been doing a significant amount of teaching online (even before corona!). What prompted this and how has it impacted your teaching style?
I started teaching online in 2013 when it was not so common. Many of my past clients found it difficult to practice the language regularly or to maintain their level, mainly due to their busy schedules. That is how the idea of online coaching came to us, and both my clients and I immediately appreciated this mode of learning.
In terms of organization, it took a lot of time to prepare and deliver the content in a new way, but at the end of the day, I have been using the time more efficiently, saving paper, and have become closer to the clients through daily chats via WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
How do the needs of your American students learning Russian for business differ from your students learning English for business?
The only difference is that the demand for learning Russian for business is growing rather slowly. Most of my local American clients are interested in the Russian language for socializing and traveling. Being quite a difficult language to learn, it takes a lot of motivation to get people to move further.
What are some of your tips on keeping big clients happy?
Loving your job is not enough. Staying focused on my clients’ goals is critical to me. I am used to wearing many hats, being a psychologist, a coach, and a teacher at the same time, staying with them through thick and thin.
Listening patiently and giving feedback in a delicate way has also helped me build clients’ trust and confidence. Emotional intelligence is the core in coaching. Logic makes people think, emotions make them act. And finally, neuroscience helps me understand how people learn and what tool can be applied to make this experience more efficient.
What is BOLD coaching and how do you incorporate it into business English teaching?
BOLD is a coaching program for leaders and managers who would like to broaden their opportunities for growth and change. We sometimes need to recognize our limiting beliefs and work to shift our mindset. ‘What you focus on expands’ has become my motto, because our words create our thoughts, mindset, actions, and finally, results. In language coaching, I encourage my clients to become more resilient and persistent on their way to success. Focusing on less, avoiding multi-tasking helped me create training that sticks.
What benefits do you get from being part of a professional network like BESIG?
Staying connected with educators, learning from them, exchanging experiences. Today’s world is spinning faster than before, and our mission is to adapt to the changes we are experiencing in professional training.
Questions by Mandy Welfare
Editing by Mike Canning
19th July 2020
MEET A MEMBER is available to IATEFL BESIG members and non-members alike but only features our current members. Another reason to join us and “BE with BESIG.”