It’s imagination time!
Imagine this situation: You and your friend are having problems understanding everything in your English class, but one day your friend suddenly starts getting better.
You ask why they’re improving so quickly, and they tell you how they found a great tutor who has been helping them.
You’ve never thought about getting a tutor before, but now you’re seriously considering it.
Okay, imagination time is over, but many of you have probably experienced that exact situation. If so, you may want to find an English tutor to help you understand everything you’re learning.
But where should you start?
That’s exactly what we’ll look at today: why you might want to work with an English tutor, what to expect if you decide to use a tutor and where you can find a tutor who’s perfect for you.
A Complete Guide to Finding and Working with English Tutors
Why You Should Consider a Tutor: Teachers vs. Tutors
When you’re considering a tutor, you need to understand the difference between a classroom teacher and a private tutor. While in the classroom, your teacher will introduce you to the material. They may present it in many different ways to appeal to the different learning styles of the students in the classroom.
If you’re struggling with a topic, a good classroom teacher will try their best to help you, but they usually don’t have time during classes to give you all of the attention you need.
A tutor, on the other hand, is more flexible and can work with your schedule. Your tutor will take concepts you’ve already learned and review them with you until you feel comfortable. They use review activities, games, dialogues and other methods to help you understand.
When you have a tutor, you tell them what you want or need to work on. Sometimes a tutor will see you having difficulties with a certain topic and offer to review it with you. But in many cases, you will lead the lessons by telling the tutor what you want to learn more about.
In other words: Teachers teach the subject, but tutors help you to understand it.
Some Advantages of Working with a Tutor
As we’ve seen, teachers and tutors do similar jobs, but they do them in different ways. Even if you don’t think you need extra help, a tutor can still help you learn.
Let’s look at a few other advantages of working with tutors.
1. You’ll receive individualized attention
Classroom instruction is good because it gives you contact with other English language learners. But sometimes, when you’re learning something difficult, you need extra help—help that a classroom teacher can’t provide.
During tutoring sessions, you’ll have an instructor that can give you the attention you need. They can get to know you, your learning style and the specific things that you struggle with.
2. You can make a customized plan
A classroom teacher has to create a one-size-fits-all lesson plan to work with many different students, learning styles and interests.
A tutor, on the other hand, will work with you to determine which areas you can improve or which topics you want to learn more about. When you work with a tutor, you have more say in what you want to study. Whether you need to work on specific material for an upcoming exam or want to discover new things out of simple curiosity, a tutor will help you reach your goals.
3. You’ll gain confidence
Maybe you’re not comfortable giving an English presentation or practicing a dialogue in front of your instructor and many classmates.
If so, that’s the kind of thing you can practice ahead of time with your tutor. They’ll listen to you and give you tips on improvement. If you’re having trouble, a tutor will review a topic with you as many times as necessary so that you perform your best on presentations, exams and during your class in general.
What You Should Know About Your Tutor
Not all tutors are alike. Since everyone has a different personality, you’ll probably work better with some tutors than with others.
When you find a potential tutor, there are many questions you can ask him or her at the first meeting, but the following ones are especially important.
1. What is your educational and teaching background?
A tutor’s educational background doesn’t always indicate if he or she will be a good tutor.
However, if you want to move forward in your studies, a trained professional will help you get further than someone who isn’t a professional, like a classmate. If you just need someone to explain something to you, a classmate can be helpful. But if you need more individualized attention, look for a tutor with a strong educational background, as well as experience in tutoring.
A good, reputable tutor will have a teaching certificate and/or a college degree, and will specialize in teaching English. They’ll also have experience tutoring others. If you didn’t find the tutor through a referral of someone you already know, it’s a good idea to ask for references. Contact the references and ask about their experiences with the tutor.
2. What is your teaching style?
Just like students have different learning styles, educators have different teaching styles. Teachers are trained to teach in a variety of methods, but everyone has their favorite method. Some methods may not work with your learning style.
For example, a particular tutor may favor games, but you may prefer quizzes and drills. If you’re unsure of your learning style, it’s okay to participate in a trial session to see if a tutor’s teaching style works for you.
3. What kinds of results can we both expect?
Both you and your tutor should understand what you expect in terms of results.
If you’re preparing for something specific, like a test, let your tutor know before you start so they can tailor their lessons to include material that will be on your exam. Or if you’re interested in carrying on conversations in English, tell them so.
A good tutor will give you a realistic time frame of when you should see improvement, and what that improvement will look like.
Where to Start Looking for a Tutor
Tutors are everywhere, but you might have to dig deeper to find good ones. Here are some places you can start.
1. Ask your instructor or classmates
The best place to start is with your instructor. It’s very likely that if your instructor doesn’t offer tutoring, they’ll know someone who does. Your instructor will have workmates and friends in educational fields who tutor or who can direct you to good ones.
If you feel comfortable with your instructor and he or she tutors, that can often be a great option. Your instructor already knows you, and they know the material you need to learn.
Another good place to start is with your classmates. There’s a chance that they have good tutors who can take on new clients. You’ll also learn from your classmates if a tutor might be a good match for you.
2. Consider excellent online options
There are many great websites that offer tutoring services for very reasonable prices. These tutors are all over the world so you can work with them online, but some also offer in-person tutoring, depending on your location.
One benefit of an online tutor is that you don’t need to spend time traveling to and from sessions. Plus, they’re very flexible, so you can learn on your own schedule. Many online tutors offer trial sessions for a very low price or even for free.
There are several places online where you can find great English tutors, but a few stand out.
One great option is Wyzant, a service to help you find tutors. If you’re an English learner living in the United States, you can also use Wyzant to find a local tutor if you want to meet in person. Wyzant is a good choice if you need help studying for a test, since many of the tutors on the site are professional teachers with certifications and many years of experience.
If you aren’t able to do in-person tutoring, or if you just prefer online tutoring, then Verbling is an excellent way to find an English tutor. The site has hundreds of professionals offering English tutoring, so you can choose one that fits your needs and interests. You can even search for a tutor based on other languages that he or she speaks. So, for example, if you’re learning English and your native language is Spanish, you can find a tutor that can teach you in Spanish (or at least clarify some confusing points).
Another resource to consider is italki, an excellent language instruction and tutoring site. Here, you can find the ideal English tutor to work with you long term, based on their location, skills, schedule and rates. They also have an “Instant Tutoring” option if you need help immediately,.
3. Check out tutoring centers
If you’re looking for a more formal tutoring environment, then you should consider a tutoring center. They’re also a good option if you prefer a face-to-face tutor to an online one. For some people, it may be easier to form a relationship with a face-to-face tutor.
Another advantage of tutoring centers is that the tutors that work there have been screened based on requirements of the center. You don’t have to worry about checking educational backgrounds or references because the center has already done it for you. The only thing you need to worry about is if a tutor’s teaching style is compatible with your learning style. Most tutoring centers will work with you to match you up with the best tutor for your needs.
There’s even a good chance your school or educational institution may have a tutoring center. If not, they can provide you with help to locate a tutoring center if there are any in your area.
Qualities of a Good English Tutor
Teachers and tutors have different personalities, but good English tutors have similar qualities. If you’re interviewing a tutor, you should notice several characteristics.
1. Completely fluent in English (preferably a native speaker)
Immersion is very important when you’re learning a language. Don’t worry about how well a tutor can speak your native language, but how well they speak English. Not all native speakers make good tutors, of course, and there are many non-native English speakers who are excellent tutors. But generally, a native speaker can often help you understand certain aspects of language and culture in a way that a non-native speaker might not be able to do.
Listening to native English is crucial if you really want to improve your skills. A great tool you can use alongside a tutor is FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.With FluentU, you’ll get access to English as spoken by native speakers, which will give you a sense of immersion you definitely need to become fluent in English. Give it a free try now!
2. Approachable and friendly
You won’t get very far if you’re not comfortable with your tutor. Not all personalities work well together. If you don’t feel comfortable with your tutor, it’s okay to find a new one. You may even need to try a few before you find the right one, and that’s fine. You should focus on your learning, and don’t worry about hurting a tutor’s feelings if you stop taking classes with them. They won’t take it personally if you don’t continue with them.
A good tutor should be available and accessible. They should give you dependable contact information such as a mobile phone number or an email address they check regularly. They should tell you the best way and times you can reach them if you have questions.
4. Patient and understanding
A good teacher or tutor is patient and understanding. They know you won’t understand everything right away. They’ll review the material with you as much as needed. If a tutor becomes impatient or annoyed, they aren’t the right tutor for you.
You’re probably not always in the mood to study. If your tutor is lively and provides fun activities to work on, it’ll make your session go by quickly. When a tutor has good energy and enthusiasm, you’ll find yourself motivated to learn more.
6. Encourage independence, but still available to help
Understand that a tutor is only there to guide you. You still need to learn the material on your own. Don’t count on your tutor to always give you the answers; you need to be able to figure some things out on your own. On the other hand, if you’re really struggling, a good tutor will help you.
Your tutor should be a confident teacher. If they’re a native speaker or have the proper experience, they can give you the correct answers you need without making you question if they really know what they’re talking about.
Steps to Take Before Looking for a Tutor
Now you know why you might want a tutor, you know where to find a tutor and you also know what characteristics to look for in a tutor.
If you’ve decided to go ahead and start learning with a tutor, there are a few practical steps you should follow.
1. Define your goals
Know exactly what you’re working on and where you want to be. Make a plan for one to six months. Write down your plan and goals. If you see your goals on paper, you’ll be able to explain them to your tutor so he or she can make the right plan for you.
2. Understand your needs
This will help you to know what kind of tutor will be best for you.
What motivates you? What’s your favorite part of class? Look at the feedback on your homework and exams. What areas cause the most trouble? If possible, bring your graded assignments to your tutor. They may see something that you don’t and make suggestions.
3. Know your commitment abilities
Are you looking for a short-term tutor to prepare for an exam, or are you looking for an ongoing, long-term relationship? You and your tutor should have an idea of how long you plan to work together so you can plan material accordingly.
It’s not always easy to find a good tutor. You may find the right one on the first try, or it may take a little longer. It’s important to be patient through the process.
Whether you want to learn online or in-person, short-term or long-term, you’ll eventually find the right tutor who will help you succeed.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.