It can be hard to figure out what you do not know.
It is even harder when you are learning a new language.
Sure, you could Google all these questions and hope to find answers written by reliable and knowledgeable people with real experience in Japanese and not just some 12-year-old regurgitating the misinformation his friend gave him last year.
But if you really want to improve your understanding of the Japanese language and its cultural context—from the comfort of your own home—then you should look into hiring a Japanese tutor online.
Find the Perfect Japanese Tutor Online: Tons of Tips and 6 Resources
What to Look for in a Japanese Tutor
A good tutor can help you get the most out of your study time and make real progress in your language learning. But how do you find the right tutor for you?
Hiring a tutor for the first time can feel a bit intimidating because there are so many choices. When it comes down to it, there are only three main factors to consider when you are looking for a Japanese tutor who will meet your needs.
You need to feel comfortable with your tutor because you are going to make mistakes in front of them. It is just a part of learning. They will need to push your limits. And they will need to correct you. If you are not comfortable with the tutor, then the relationship can end up feeling adversarial, which is not conducive to learning.
Look for a tutor whose lesson style, personality and means of making corrections match what works best for you. To be clear, remember that you are not looking to hire a best friend. You are looking to hire someone who can guide you. This means that you need to think about what is best for you, not what you personally prefer. Looking for a tutor who seems like one of your friends will not be helpful in the long run.
So what should you base your decision on? Think back to the teachers you learned the most from in school, and you will have an idea of what to look for.
Knowledge Base and Level
It is critical to know how much your tutor knows. If you are just starting out, an upperclassman in a university Japanese program may be a fine tutor and can save you money. If you are a more advanced student, or you are looking to develop true fluency, then you will need a native speaker.
You should also consider the specific knowledge that you want to learn. If you are going to Japan to study at a university then you may want to make sure that your tutor knows the vocabulary of your subject matter. After all, how many of us know the specialized vocabulary of medical sciences, chemistry, art or psychology in our own language? Make sure your tutor can help you meet your specific goals.
Having a tutor who is available at the same time that you are might seem like a no-brainer, but it is important to consider how their availability works within your schedule.
You should also make sure that you have a tutor who is willing to work with the amount of study that you can put in. Finding time to study each week can be a challenge, and you will need a tutor who can deal with your pace, however slow it may be.
This is something you should discuss when you are talking to prospective tutors. Ask them what their expectations are, and see if they are willing to work with someone who can only dedicate a limited amount of time to learning.
The Benefits of Picking a Native Speaker to Tutor You
Picking a native speaker as a tutor has a few benefits and you should consider it as an option. By using a native speaker, you will get used to a native Japanese accent and the speed of the language. That will make it easier to communicate with other native speakers in the real world, as you will be familiar with the language on a native level.
You can gain access to a wider range of vocabulary, as the tutor will be familiar first-hand with slang and other words generally not taught in a classroom.
You will also get the benefit of the cultural context of language. As you are probably aware from your knowledge of your own first language, idioms, sarcasm and knowledge of the thoughts/feelings of the people in a culture change the meaning of words. You will get the best inside information on that from a native speaker.
Having a tutor who is a native Japanese speaker is as beneficial, in fact, as using an authentic resource for your learning, like the real-world videos on FluentU. FluentU uses music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks to craft personalized lessons for each learner.
Play a couple of videos to see the sound and speed of the language, then use the interactive subtitles and quizzes to learn new vocabulary. It is almost like learning with a personal tutor!
Remember, though, that just knowing a language well does not make you a good teacher. Look for someone who has experience teaching, so that they can pass their language knowledge on to you effectively.
Where to Find Japanese Tutors Online
Most tutoring sites work in pretty much the same way.
Log on and look at a list of tutor profiles. Sites generally allow you to see the availability and a brief biography of the tutor, as well as user reviews.
Once you find a tutor who seems to meet your needs, you can check their rates. Pricing varies by tutor, and sometimes you can find lessons for as low as $15 an hour. More experienced tutors or ones with specialized discipline information may cost you more.
It is worth noting that you should read the reviews before you hand out any money. Some tutors allow you to pay per lesson, which lets you try a sample lesson before you commit to more regular classes. Others require (or heavily encourage with a discount) you to buy multiple lessons at once, essentially subscribing to a tutor.
Reading reviews, and trying the free trial lesson if available, is a good way to give you some idea of what to expect.
If you still have questions, contact the tutor directly before you put out your money. Many of them are happy to answer questions.
Here are some of the best sites for finding quality Japanese tutors online:
This site lets you connect with tutors and book online appointments through their system. The teachers then create customized lesson plans with you to help you reach your goals.
Although the site recommends that you take one-hour lessons, some tutors offer 30-minute classes.
This resource uses a credit system to purchase classes. You buy credits then use them to book your lessons, which are conducted via Skype.
In addition to searching by tutor, you can also search by lesson if you need to find a specific topic. Taking a pre-made lesson is a good way to try out a tutor without either of you having to commit to a personalized lesson plan right away.
The site offers full-time tech support, so if you have issues with the technology you can get help quickly.
Preply allows you to input the times you are available, then finds tutors who can meet you at those times to suit your schedule. You can even post your own requirements and let tutors find you.
There is a wide range of prices—from $1 to $40—making it a very flexible option if you have a limited budget (although most tutor rates are around the $15 to $25 per hour mark).
You can book a trial lesson before you commit, and there is no need to install any additional programs as video lessons are held directly through the website.
Verbling has many tutors available, with prices as low as $10 per lesson. You are able to check how many lessons a tutor has taught, so you can see at a glance how much experience they have.
This resource was created specifically for learning languages, so it has extra features ideal for the task, like textpads shared between you and the teacher, flashcards, a built-in grammar checker and more. Everything, from the lessons themselves to the additional features, is done in your browser.
Each teacher sets their own cancellation policy, so be sure to read them before you book. Some tutors also offer free trial lessons.
This is one of the more expensive options, but the tutors are all vetted and experienced. There is a shared whiteboard system for collaborative writing and all lessons are held in the browser.
Wyzant uses a pay-per-lesson system, so you do not need to sign up for a package.
This site focuses on connecting learners with native speakers.
It allows you and your tutor to track your progress through a useful analysis and feedback system, which shows you exactly where your Japanese skills are in terms of the Common European Framework of References for Languages. This means every lesson can be really focused on the areas where you need to improve.
Picking the right tutor does require some research upfront but in the end, it will be worth it. With the right relationship, you can see your Japanese language proficiency grow far faster than it would if you were working on your own.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.