So you say I should go out and find a language tutor, huh?
Someone who I can meet up with for valuable face-to-face learning?
Oh, no thank you.
I’ll stay right where I am, curled up on the couch with a steaming cup of coffee.
But then the guilt wells up.
Ohhh, how long will it take before I’m fluent at this rate? I certainly won’t be a bilingual casanova anytime soon…
That’s when it hits me. I can have it all. I can get language lessons and be lazy at the same time.
It’s time for some mindblowing online language learning. Boot up the computer. Open the web browser. A little searching and then, yes!
Online language tutoring. A cure for what ails me. And whatever may afflict you as well. For the world of online language tutoring is both broad and deep, and whatever goals you may be seeking in your language learning, you’re likely to reach them there.
But this is a new field for many of us. Naturally, we feel skeptical, and a multitude of questions arise whenever we’re approached with something new.
Let’s have a close look at just what this world of online language tutoring is all about, and see for ourselves that it’s an invaluable tool worth a small investment of our time.
Why Choose Online Language Tutoring?
Now the first question that springs to mind is why choose online language tutoring at all? What advantages could it possibly have over the time-tested, one-on-one, in-person language tutoring sessions that have existed since time immemorial?
One answer to this question has already been given: Location, location, location. You can meet anywhere you like and, moreover, whenever you like. It has the convenience factor. Not only does this mean that you can have your tutoring sessions while wearing your leopard print sweatpants, it means that you’ll be able to save some serious time by avoiding commutes back and forth from a physical classroom.
If that’s not enough, how about saving a good chunk of change? Online language tutors can be significantly cheaper than in-person tutors. Since they also can avoid commutes, are often self-employed and may be living in a country where the cost of living is much lower, online tutors are able to charge significantly less and often make just as good of a living as they would through traditional in-person tutoring.
And of course there’s perhaps the most important advantage of online tutoring: availability. Whether you’re trying to learn an obscure language that has few tutors anywhere or whether you’re living in a small town in the rural Midwest with an extreme dearth of foreign language speakers, online language tutoring makes possible that which would otherwise be impossible. Anyone with a decent connection willing to shell out a bit of cash can now fulfill language learning dreams regardless of physical location.
How Can I Identify a Good Online Language Tutor?
Unfortunately, the Internet is rife with bad deals, if you haven’t learned that yet from the talking moose in the popup window asking for your credit card number. So obviously we’re going to need some clear and hard criteria to ensure we’re getting our money’s worth.
First off, your tutor should be willing and capable of tailoring their lessons to your needs and interests.
For beginners, this perhaps is not so important. Everyone starts out needing to learn the basics, and your conversation topics will probably be constrained to food, colors, introductions and other fundamental building blocks.
But at higher levels, a tutor should be able to properly assess your weak points, as well as focus on any points you wish to improve upon, and continually present fresh lesson topics rather than hashing out 50 lesson plans around ordering in a restaurant when you’re already an advanced speaker.
Next on the criteria list is interaction, which is one of the most important criteria because it’s the thing most often complained about with online language lessons.
Good teacher-student interaction and interaction between the student and online media leads to greater, higher-order critical inquiry skills.
Interaction is all about having tasks that motivate a learner to use their language skills. This could be role-playing a real-life situation with your tutor or posting a video project on YouTube around some specific goal. Whatever gets you to interact with the language in a new way.
The third and final criteria is how well the teacher helps you to find new resources. While this may not be hugely important for advanced students, students new to language learning often can’t tell which resources would be helpful for learning their target language. This is a fairly easy and straightforward service that any tutor worth their salt should be able to provide.
Where Do I Find Tutors?
Now that we know what qualities we should be looking for, the question arises as to where exactly these people can be found.
- Most people will probably find that Verbling satisfies most if not all of their demands. It seems to outstrip any other online teaching platform in its popularity, and it may well offer access to the most professional teachers and the most languages of all the online teaching sites.
You’ll be able to explore hundreds upon hundreds of online language teachers and find exactly the one who’s right for you. When you search, you’ll get to search based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak—so if your native language is Chinese or German, you can find a teacher to instruct you in that language. Plus, the technology here makes accessing tutoring sessions extra smooth! You don’t need Skype or another third-party program. It’s all here!
- WyzAnt is an incredible resource for locating stellar language teachers near you. This site is professional and polished, and it features well-educated and well-qualified tutors in your local area. Follow this link to see who’s available close to home.
- italki is a well-designed website for finding tutors and casual language exchange partners, equipped with easy-to-use features such as a calendar converter for figuring out schedules (a huge time-saver for tutors and students separated by time zones).
But How Do I Find the Right Tutor for Me?
Finally, we reach the most concrete of decisions. Who, when it finally comes down to it, will be the person staring me down from the other side of the screen on a weekly basis…and will they be nice to me?
Thankfully, most sites offer a rating system for the teachers with a comments section, and some sites, such as italki, even separate the teachers with certification from those without so that you can be sure of who has what experience.
Remember to look out for the hallmarks of a quality teacher that we talked about above when trawling through those comments and teacher profiles:
- tailor-made lessons
- a high level of interactivity
- a wealth of knowledge concerning learning resources
While that last one probably isn’t talked about too much, the other two at least are probably common sense to most individuals and are likely to be major points of praise or criticism for each teacher.
But when it comes down to it, we’re all individuals and we click with people in different ways. A teacher I might have great respect for could very well bore you to death.
Naturally then, it’s best not to stop at one or even two different tutors. Rather, pick out a handful you like and try each of them out, even if you think you really like the tutor you have your first session with. By having several different teachers, you’ll be able to see each of their strengths and weaknesses before you whittle down to your final selection.
So, How Effective Is Online Tutoring?
This is all very wonderful, you say, but is it really worth my time and money? It may be cheap, convenient and adaptable, but am I going to learn anything?
The answer to this question is quite simple: yes. But just as with the traditional learning methods, online language tutors are a tool, and your success with them depends on how much effort you, as a learner, put in.
So go take a look and start breaking ground on your new online tutoring experience.
Then you’ll be lounging inside with a beverage and a comfortable chair, and of course with your new online friend who hopes to have you fluent within a few months.
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