Language Learning: Get a Tutor

You don’t have to go to Rome to chat with Caesar and a gladiator to get a little practice done

If you have ever studied a new language you might have found yourself learning loads and doing just fine. Then you hit a wall. Learning on your own hit a plateau. You studied all of the grammar and did the vocabulary drills. Why can’t you have a decent conversation yet?

It’s time to bring in a little help.

Tutors can be an invaluable resource when it comes to learning a new language. Unlike a classroom setting or at your own at home, you can have one on one instruction from a fluent speaker. They can ease you into the flow of everyday conversation and correct your mistakes along the way. It becomes practical learning, instead of just book learning.

I recently email chatted with New Zealand native Lis from Lis Travel Tips. She was studying Spanish and traveling, but unhappy with her progress. She turned to a tutor and things began to turn around.

It was the early 90′s and I was travelling South America solo. I’d been travelling for around 4 months, and my Spanish had [reached] a plateau. I could do the usual travel things; get a room, find the right bus, book it for tomorrow, but it wasn’t improving. I decided I wanted to slow down a bit and I’d got as far as Bolivia when I decided to do so. I was in La Paz – and if there are language schools there now there certainly weren’t when I was there or not anywhere near [where] I was staying anyways. Instead I found the local uni and saw someone advertising 1-on-1 English lessons i.e. I knew he spoke some English. I then contacted him asking for Spanish lessons! We did a couple of hours a day for about 2 weeks from memory. I really wanted to improve my grammar and work out when to use the different tenses. Spanish has quite a complex verb form compared to English. 

Because I’d gotten past the raw beginner stage I think it was a much better value having a tutor than having to fit in with a class. A lot of what I needed was just one on one conversation with someone who was prepared to correct my Spanish not just try to understand me.

Also we did conversation that went further than the usual “where are you from” and ” where is your family.” Instead I could talk about my country, NZ, its politics, economy, etc.- all of which was a stretch for my vocabulary.

Even if you can’t afford a tutor, you can still find a native speaker to help you. Look for a university student, like Lis did, who is looking to improve their English. You can both benefit from a little chitchat over a cup of coffee at the local shop.

I’ve also heard of people connecting over Skype or Google Voice for language practice.

Here in Seattle we have language meet up groups at coffee shops. You can also head to Meetup.com and search the language you are looking for and it will pull up a map of Meet Up groups around the globe.

There are so many free options out there for learning; you just have to go out and make a connection.

Have you missed some of this exciting series? Head over to the Language Learning page for even more information and tips. 

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written by Keryn Means

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