Online tutoring can be a highly effective way to improve your language skills. But it’s not as simple as picking a tutor, turning up to lessons, and seeing your fluency sky-rocket. To ensure you make the most of the time and money you’re investing in learning, you need to take an active role in your learning. Below are some ways you can do this.
Don’t rush into choosing the first tutor you see. Websites like Lingoci allow you to watch a video of each tutor. Make sure you take the time to watch the videos as they’ll give you a sense of how each tutor teaches, whether they’re a strong communicator and whether their personality is likely to fit with yours. And when you find a tutor you like, check their availability carefully to ensure you’d be able to book lesson times that fit with your weekly schedule. Certain websites will give you the option of booking a free taster session so you can check that the tutor is a good fit for you.
During the first lesson with your tutor, discuss your goals with them. This is vital because the tutor should be able to understand what’s motivating you and tailor the classes to your needs. Whether you want to pass an exam, be able to speak comfortably with locals, or feel confident giving a business presentation in your target language, you should be as specific as you can with your stated goal, and set a deadline for achieving it. The deadline will give you some needed pressure to work hard, and you’ll have a good understanding of exactly what you need to do to be successful.
When students start learning, they often have a plan in their minds of how many lessons they plan to take each week. Then other commitments get in the way, or their motivation falls, and they end up not taking lessons regularly enough to hit their goals. Consistent practice is essential to making progress. One solution to prevent yourself from slacking is to book several months of lessons and add them to your calendar. Most tutoring sites will allow you to book lessons to recur each week, and if you need to make a change you can usually do this up to 24 hours before the lesson. Once you have a weekly routine, you’ll see the rewards and be more likely to stick to your language learning habit.
You can read, write, and listen to your target language outside of lessons. In contrast, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the opportunity to speak the language and get expert feedback. So make the most of your time with your tutor by getting outside of your comfort zone and speaking as much as possible with your tutor. You may feel a little embarrassed or nervous, particularly if you’re a beginner. Push through these nerves and allow yourself to make mistakes! The more mistakes you’re making, the faster you’re learning. Related to this point, if during your first session with the tutor they dominate the conversation and don’t ask you many questions, this is a sign they may not be the best tutor for helping you improve your oral fluency. Some tutors simply talk too much!
The best teachers will encourage you to learn outside of your lessons and will be able to recommend some good resources. For major languages like Spanish and German, it’s easy to find decent resources online. Radio, podcasts, TV, and films are all good options for listening practice, whilst if you want to improve your reading ability, you can read newspapers online or find books that interest you. And of course, you can supplement your lessons with an app like Drops.
The beauty of learning 1-on-1 with a tutor is that you can focus on what interests you. So tell your tutor about yourself - what you’re interested in, what your hobbies are etc. - and they should be able to focus the lessons on these topics. By covering topics that are relevant and interesting to you, you’ll be more likely to use the words you learn in real life, improving the chances of you successfully committing them to memory.
Whilst your tutor will do their best to adapt the lessons to your needs, sometimes it can be difficult to know what’s working for you and what isn’t. Polite, constructive feedback will be welcomed by your tutor and will help them to optimize their approach. Tell them what you want to do more of and you’ll make their job easier!
About the author: Alex Redfern is a British entrepreneur and Founder of Lingoci.com, a language tutoring platform that currently has tutors available in 7 languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, and Swedish.