Learning a language can be a real test of one’s character. It requires motivation, inspiration, dedication, and of course patience. However, while consistency is something given to the chosen few by nature, most of us could use a little (or a lot!) of help staying on track. This is where a tutor come in. Tutors are the personal trainers of language acquisition. And similar to finding a good fitness instructor, selecting a tutor that works for you can be tricky. I hope the following list will make this process a little more manageable for you.
1. Define your needs: Do you want a conversation partner? Learn most common things to use in your travels? Delve deeper and explore grammatical structures of the language? Or a combination of the above? Be clear in your initial interaction with a tutor so that they may customize their lessons to your needs. That brings us to our next point.
2. Flexibility vs. Structure: You obviously want your tutor to know what they are doing and to take the lead in moving your learning along, however, you also want someone that can take into consideration your personal preferences and needs. If the tutor’s style does not suit your way of learning do not be afraid to keep looking. Things to look out for: rigidity in approach that does not allow for any compromise or personal input, and on the other hand, a disorganized one that lacks direction and creates stress-inducing chaos in a lesson.
3. Commitment: As you meet with tutors, do not be too quick to commit to a bundle deal, i.e. pay for 10 lessons ahead of time, until you are certain that you can build a beneficial working relationship. That will save you both time and money. Bundle deals are a great way to save money in the long-run and ensure that you stick with the lessons, however you do not want to regret your commitment either. So take your time and look around before settling on a tutor. At the same time, do find a tutor that you can meet with at least weekly to stay on track.
4. Personality matters. You are not looking for a friend or a romantic partner when searching for a tutor, but you should feel comfortable in their presence. A lively dynamic stimulates curiosity and facilitates learning. Things to look for: punctuality, approachability, professional yet friendly disposition; a supportive and encouraging personality. It is OK to follow your intuition on this one as well as it is ultimately about feeling at ease yet motivated. And last but not least:
5. Location, Location, Location. Make sure you and your tutor come up with a location that works for both of you and your needs. It should be a place that allows you to concentrate and speak freely at the same time. So a quiet coffee shop or a section of a public library that welcomes conversation would be ideal. It should also be easily accessible by both the tutor and the student to make it all that much easier to stick to it.
To summarize, you want the lessons to be something you both look forward to, so make sure you are clear on your goals and preference; that you pick the right time, place, and person to work with; and above all have fun exploring a brand new territory.