Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

Six Tips for choosing a good tutor – for an adult.

Whether you are choosing a language tutor for a child, for an adult or for a group, there are several considerations that you may want to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right person for you.  Here are some ideas for you if you are looking for someone to teach an adult:

1.     Consider carefully whether you would be better to have tuition at your home/office or at the tutor’s premises.  In some cases it can be more convenient to have the lesson at your work, presuming that you have a suitable room available.  You may prefer to meet the tutor in a public place for the first lesson, but this may not be the best option for longer term (background noise, additional costs, space…)

2.     Match your tutor to your needs.  If you are a beginner then you will have different needs to someone who would like to improve their business language.  Ask your tutor about their experience with teaching the type of language you need.

3.     If you would like to work towards a qualification then ask the tutor what they think is appropriate.  There is no need for an adult learner to take a GCSE or A Level – indeed, I would advise against it, unless you particularly like talking about how much your brother annoys you, or why you love geography!  Those qualifications are carefully aimed at teenage learners and so some of the topics are less relevant for adults. There are other certificates available which are internationally recognised, for example the certificates offered by the Goethe Institut for German or the Cambridge Certificates for English (EFL).

4.     Have reasonable expectations of what you will be paying.  Remember that the minimum wage for someone over 24 is just over £8 per hour.  With a good tutor you are not just paying for the one hour of the class, but also for the time they spend planning and marking homework.  It can take quite some time to plan a student-specific scheme of work to meet your requirements in the time available.  As a rough guide, prepare for the cost of the tutor to be similar to the cost of a 1:1 session with a physiotherapist or personal trainer at the gym.

5.     Think about how often you will take classes and how long each lesson will be.  If you have little time to commit and an irregular working pattern then you may not be able to learn as quickly as if you can dedicate time to your project two or three times each week.  Once a week is a good start for lessons, less than once a fortnight will give too much time to forget in between!  As a general rule, the quicker you want to learn, the more time you must make available.  So if you have just three months to learn then you would be wise to fit in as many teaching hours as possible.

6.     Personality.  Ensuring that you get on well with the tutor and can work well with them is a key element.  Sometimes two people just don’t get on well, without it being anyone’s fault – so be prepared to review the situation after two or three classes to make sure that both sides are happy.

 

Teri Fleetwood is the owner of Language Learners and has been providing French, German and English (EFL) lessons to adults and children for more than 12 years.   Language Learners operates mostly in the Woking and Guildford areas of Surrey.

Seven tips to help you learn a new language

Seven tips to help you learn a new language

As social media is flooded with back-to-school pictures of angelic-looking children in shiny, new (rather large) school uniforms it can be a time for many of us to think of new beginnings.  Here are seven tips for those learning a new language to help with those initial stages:

1.     Learn your vocabulary!  It may seem a bit silly when you only know 10 words, but if you start with good habits from the beginning then you will see that vocabulary grow to 100 or 1000 words before you know it.  Write lists, make flashcards, invest in sticky notes and label everything you own – whatever works for you and your style of learning.

2.    If the language you are learning uses a gender-system for nouns, then get to grips with it sooner rather than later.  It may seem a lot of trouble for something you aren’t familiar with, but gendered nouns tend to lead to gendered adjectives and before you know it, it becomes important to know whether “the table” is masculine or feminine!  Try highlighting the words using a different colour for each gender (French has two, German has three) and see if it helps you. Time spent at the beginning, learning each gender as you learn the noun, will save much heartache later on as you get more fluent.

3.    If the plural isn’t always “s” – then learn the plural at the same time as the singular.  You may think that English is easy as every plural is made with “s” – but that isn’t always the case!  “Sheeps” or “Fishs”, anyone?

4.    Listen to as much of your new language as possible.  Music-heavy radio stations will provide limited opportunities, but a good discussion show or news report will give you a great exposure to the natural rhythm of the language and its intonation, even if you aren’t too sure what they are talking about.

5.    Practice little and often.  Three shorter sessions in a week will be easier to digest than one mammoth session – and practice makes perfect!  Try carving out some scheduled time in your diary for study, revision and vocabulary learning.

6.    If you like technology, then use it.  Just don’t get obsessed with it!  There are many language learning apps available.  Some of them are even free.  They can be really useful for vocabulary and even sentence practice, but none of them are as good as finding someone who speaks the language really well and having a conversation with them (with regular corrections and a dictionary to hand!)

7.    Face up to the grammar monster!  A substantial number of my students tell me they don’t want to learn grammar, they just want to learn how to talk.  Well…… if you don’t want to risk sounding like a three-year-old, or inadvertently offending your key client by being overly familiar, then you will have to face grammar at some point.  There are many good grammar guides available to help you with the basics and it may be worth considering a tutor, at least for a few sessions, to help you with anything you are finding tricky.

There you go – seven tips for learning a new language.  Now go out, and HAVE FUN learning, because if you enjoy it then you are more likely to make a success of it!

Learning vocabulary – isn’t that just for schoolkids?

Learning vocabulary – isn’t that just for schoolkids?

Learning a language involves so many different skills.  You may be feeling daunted by the grammar involved in being able to describe things in the past, present AND future, or by different genders for different nouns.  One fact that you really cannot avoid though, is that you will need to learn vocabulary at some point.  If, like me, that brings back memories of sitting in front of an exercise book with a list of 20 words and trying desperately to memorise them before Monday’s test, then this won’t be your favourite task.

Sadly, I lost my “photographic” memory when life got busy and my brain filled with other important things like appointments and to do lists.  The good news though is that there are many different ways to learn and that you should be able to squeeze one or two of them into your routine.  Here are 10 tips for learning vocabulary:

1.    Write it down.  It seems obvious, but however sure you are that you will remember that “un éclair” is French for “lightning bolt” the chances are that you will soon forget as you focus instead on your next meeting or to-do list. 

2.    Keep a notebook handy so that you can refer to your lists and add to them whenever you have a spare moment.

3.    When you write down a word, make sure that you include relevant grammatical information too.  For some languages the gender of a noun is very important, for verbs it may be the past participle.

4.    “Little and often” is best.  The process of moving information from short term memory to long term memory is best achieved by regular practice.  You can’t learn to play a musical instrument by one three-hour mammoth session per month and the same applies to languages.  10 minutes vocab practice 3-4 times per week is better than half an hour the night before your next class!

5.    Keep this week’s vocabulary in an obvious place.  Maybe that is by the kettle so you can review it every time you make a cup of tea.  Alternatively, maybe by the bathroom mirror so you see it as you clean your teeth.  Whatever works for you.

6.    Consider using apps and online resources to help.  Programmes such as DuoLingo or their offshoot, Tinycards, can be invaluable as they provide chances for repetitive practice in an easy-to-use format.

7.    Are you a kinesthetic learner?  If you learn better by doing rather than seeing or hearing, then consider making flashcards.  The act of moving the English word to be next to the French one can help to cement the relationship between them.  Even better, in the case of simple nouns, would be to label the objects around you – and to move the labels to repeat the task regularly!

8.    Keep on top of it.  10-20 words per week may seem like a little, but busy lives can get in the way of the best intentions.  Before long you have a list of 50 or 100 words and the task begins to look more daunting.  Especially in the case of exam students and those with a learning deadline, making sure you keep on top of your vocabulary learning will make revision much less stressful.

9.    Advanced learners – look up other relevant words as well.  So, if you have the concept of “lesson” then also look up “learn”, “learner”, “student”, “teacher”.  If it is a verb such as “to surprise” then also learn the noun “a surprise”, the adjective “surprising” and the adverb “surprisingly”.  This kind of focused work will help you to see the patterns of language formation and also widen your vocabulary beyond the simple first word which you wrote down.

10. Finally, review your vocabulary regularly.  It is easy to add in new words and then forget the old through a lack of practice.  If you find that you can no longer recall the word for “shirt” then take time to check you can remember the rest of the wardrobe as well!

If you are really keen you could write mini-tests for yourself as you go.  If you keep them in the back of your folder or notebook then you can check regularly which topics are due for revision!

September

Image result for moving day

September has arrived, and with it the start of a new academic year.  All over the country, children are returning to school, young adults are leaving home for university or their first job, and managers are returning from their summer break, wondering how to improve their business over the next 12 months.

A time for new beginnings – but if that new start includes a relocation, how do you make the most of that initial time you spend in a new country?  One of the first goals should be integration.  It is really important to find out how to navigate around your new home and also to get to know your neighbours, local shopkeepers, school teachers and the others who will be able to help you settle in (or who may get upset if you make mistakes!).

Make time to find out about the customs in your new home.  For example: did you know that in Switzerland you are not allowed to do noisy housework on a Sunday?  So, no mowing the lawn, washing clothes or getting the vacuum cleaner out.

One really good way to make new friends is to join a club or society.  Choose a hobby you already like, or pick something new.  This is a great way to get out of the house, have something to look forward to as well as meeting new people and practicing your language skills.  When in Germany, one of our tutors joined a Ski Fit club (even though she can’t ski!) and had a lovely summer of circuit training and cycle tours with them – mostly to local cafes and restaurants!  Germany in particular has a good network of Vereine (clubs and societies) and there is something for everyone.  Au pairs we have known in the UK have joined a Basketball club, volunteered with GirlGuiding and started Thai boxing, opening up a world of other opportunities in the process.

Do think of your family too.  If you are relocating together then spend some time thinking about how your partner/children will settle in, as the success of a placement can be as much about family happiness as it is about the workplace.  It is best to do this in advance if possible.  While children are very adaptable, the first day at a new school will be easier if they can understand simple instructions, say their name and ask where the toilet is!  For the non-working partner it can be very frustrating as it can be hard even to go shopping without a basic grasp of the local language.  Look for local conversation groups and classes, and consider whether the family should take some language classes before you leave.

Planning is key to making a success of your new home.  Spending a little time on research and preparation should help you all to feel at ease more quickly and to really enjoy that time away.  If you have recently arrived in the UK, or are considering relocation to another country then why not give us a call at Language Learners to see how we can help you and your family with your language requirements?