Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tips for Choosing an English Teacher

Many students see one-on-one learning as the most effective though potentially most intimidating setting in which to improve their English skills. The fear may result from a number of different factors. There is a belief (very often correct) that a personal tutor will charge a premium rate and there is some angst associated with being in a highly focused situation alone with a foreign teacher.

professor black boardSimilarly, many English language teachers may avoid the lone student challenge for a few reasons. Lack of experience in such situations, fear of canceled classes and uncertainty over what rates to charge all make group classes a more comfortable proposition for many teachers.

Here are some tips for students thinking of paying for individual lessons as an option to improve their English language skills.

1. Sit down and chat with a few different teachers before you make your choice. Most private tutors will want to talk with you before they enter into an agreement as well. They can get a feel for your level and what areas you need to improve. You can ask questions about approach and get a sense of whether you feel comfortable with their style.

2. Make your choice based on the individual teacher, not the school he or she is associated with. This even applies if you are learning on the language school’s premises. While the school may require instructors to use a specific method or set of materials for one-on-one classes, the person you are spending the time with is more important in determining how successful you will be.

3. Ask yourself what your English language learning goals are. Be as detailed as possible. Write down your ideas and bring the list to the introductory meetings. Be prepared to ask potential instructors how they will help you achieve your aims.

question mark4. After you have decided on a teacher, discuss the possibility of undergoing a trial period—perhaps two or three weeks—after which you can make a longer commitment. While the initial meeting will help you select someone appropriate, it may only be after a few actual lessons that you feel satisfied with continuing. Don’t be embarrassed to inform your teacher that you would like to consider other options.

5. Consider the amount of time involved in making a real effort to see progress. It’s a good possibility you will pay more for a private tutor than you would for group lessons. Meeting once or twice a week with the teacher isn’t going to result in real advancements unless you put in some effort outside the classroom.

6. If at all possible, make it clear to your teacher that you would like some support outside of the hours that you meet. This could simply be in the form of e-mails sent during the week in which you seek clarification on something you are studying or just as a way to practice your writing skills.

7. Engage in some enjoyable activities outside the classroom in which you are required to use English. This could be watching movies (without subtitles!) or listening to English language programs on the radio or online. You could also form a group with other learners with similar goals and agree to meet once a week during which time you are only permitted to speak English.

8. Have reasonable expectations. Don’t set unrealistic goals that aren’t in line with the amount of time you are spending. Language acquisition is an ongoing process and different students may progress at different speeds. Of course, rapid improvement is possible. It all depends on how much time you are able to invest.

one-on-one lesson9. As the weeks pass, be willing to alter the structure of the lessons and be flexible about what you hope to achieve. You may find that certain aspects of your weekly meetings are more effective than others. All teachers appreciate feedback and are more than happy to accommodate the wishes of their students. You might discover that a very casual, conversation based approach is more suited to your liking or you might want grammar points explained in detail.

10. Whatever teacher you choose or plan you agree upon, make sure that you have some fun and are satisfied that the lessons are worth your time and money. The increased attention and the fact that each lesson is tailored for your needs and requests almost ensure that your level of learning will be greater than in other settings.

If you put in the effort and are actively engaged, you will probably find that your instructor will thank you for helping him to learn a thing or two about the whole process as well.


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