HomeVolume 7May 2022 Language and Culture

VIRGINIA CUTCHIN is a multilingual intercultural consultant and neurolanguage® coach who helps professionals cultivate language skills and adapt to new environments and lifestyles. Here, JAYATI DESAI of the Heartfulness Institute interviews Virginia about the role of neuroscience in bridging intercultural differences and learning new languages.

Q: Welcome Virginia. Despite the globalization of the workforce, there are still differences in the attitudes and ways we work around the world. I am curious to understand how neurolanguage coaching helps us to collaborate more effectively.

VC: Sure. First, let me thank you for this chat.

Neurolanguage coaching was developed and registered by a wonderful woman named Rachel Paling, who established a worldwide network of neurolanguage coaches. It is a method of language acquisition and learning that places heavy emphasis on neuroscience – how brains like to learn.

All brains are basically the same, but with subtle differences that play out in how we interpret challenges – what happens when we feel anxious or threatened. This happens when we learn something, like learning to drive or learning a new language, especially when the pressure to learn is great.

Neurolanguage coaching is a process of co-creation with the learner, considering every learner as a unique case and discovering how best they learn. We present information to them accordingly and keep them as engaged as possible from the very beginning. An absolute beginner who doesn’t know anything about the language can speak and remember in a short amount of time, just by knowing how the brain accesses different blocks of information.

Neurolanguage coaching is a process of
co-creation with the learner,
considering every learner as a unique case and
discovering how best they learn.

Q: Our understanding is that children absorb information and learn new languages faster than adults. Does this method specifically cater to children or adults?

VC: It’s for both. My clients include 7-year-old children and 60-year-old adults. We do take into consideration that children learn faster, so our approach is tailored to their energy level, their brainwave patterns, the development of the physical brain, and the physical capacity to learn the language. It’s fascinating, because it allows us to engage at such a personal level that it builds closeness and trust very quickly, and that’s lasting.

Q: So, is this method faster than traditional methods? 

VC: Yes, there is evidence that those who use neurolanguage coaching learn the language faster. Neurolanguage coaching focuses on mechanical skills, such as grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, and also mastery skills, such as subject matter and target audience? What do you need to learn about? If you’re using it for business, you don’t need to know how to ride a bicycle, you need to know how to negotiate.

Neurolanguage coaching is tailor-made to the specific needs of the learner. It’s dynamic, so the learner stays engaged throughout the coaching, as they help identify what is to be learned. It is meaningful and relevant for the learner.

I lived in Italy as a teenager, and I’ve forgotten most of my Italian, so I’m going to re-learn it using this method. There are language families across the world, and we are constantly building bridges from your native language to the target language that you want to learn. And even though it could be wildly different, say English and Chinese, there are connections to be made, and the brain loves connections and patterns, and to be as efficient as possible. When we can build those bridges – we call it scaffolding –starting from a good foundation, connections between languages are made quickly.

Q: Scaffolding and building bridges between languages was the crux of the cultural counseling you provided me. But there is still a blind spot when we move from one part of the world to another, and work with people who have a different primary language and a different understanding of the language spoken.

In your role as a cultural awareness counselor, how do you enable people to make that link between different cultures?

VC: That’s a great question. We know that when people feel anxious or incompetent, when they don’t know what their role is, or where to buy socks in a new country, the learning part of the brain shuts down. Not completely, but we have less access to it, because at that point the brain wants to survive and protect us. Whether it’s protecting us physically, emotionally, or protecting our self-esteem, it is one of the components of culture shock or transition stress. The harder we try to learn in fight-or-flight mode, the less effective we are.

My background in intercultural training informs my activities as a language coach, and vice versa, because we learn best when we are calm and centered. Different brains accomplish calm in different ways, but physiology is physiology. When we practice techniques to keep the brain calm, it’s fascinating how much we can learn.

Q: Are there any specific hacks we can apply? When we onboard new staff into their roles, I see them panic or become nervous when they’re being presented with a lot of new information. What are some techniques we can apply to calm down?

VC: You can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time. Many years ago, I was in the dentist’s chair. I was already anticipating the drill in my mouth and I was getting anxious. So, I focused on relaxing my hands on my lap and I laser focused on feeling relaxed. I did some deep breathing because oxygen in the blood is key to relaxation. If the mitochondria in your cells don’t have oxygen, you don’t have energy. I’m in the dentist’s chair and I’m actively practicing relaxation, and all of a sudden the procedure was done.

It’s not that we must use consciousness that way, but just two minutes of relaxation and deep breathing can change your brainwave patterns. It’s a paradigm shift. I do it when I’m practicing coaching or training, or whenever someone is anxious. It’s such a simple technique that’s 100% effective.

Q: I can totally relate because Heartfulness Relaxation is recommended when you feel anxious or need to center yourself.

VC: It’s often passed off as trivial, but it’s truly effective. Everyone can try it out intentionally.

To be continued.

Interview by JAYATI DESAI


Virginia Cutchin

Virginia Cutchin

Virginia is a multi lingual intercultural relations consultant, health, wellness and neuro language coach, with over 25 years experience. Virginia helps professionals cultivate language skills and adapt to new environments and lifestyles. V... Read More