I’m currently doing the iTalki 2015 Language Challenge which is where if you take at least 20 hours of instruction via their tutors then you can win 400 ITC (iTalki Credits, which are used to buy lessons with the tutors on there, with ten of them costing $1US). The language I’m doing it in is, of course, German since that’s what I’m learning at the moment.
What you’re reading right now is a repost from my blog on learning German (this links to the original) that I just started called Learn German with Andrew. I will crosspost things between these two blogs from time to time, including this series of posts I’m going to do on the iTalki 2015 Language Challenge and using tutors in general. I’m doing German for the challenge but everything I have to tell you about it and using tutors to learn a language will apply to whatever language you’re learning, not just German. So no, it doesn’t matter if you’re not learning German – if you’re learning a language and think you might be interested in trying a tutor, these will be of interest to you. I will tell you when I’m doing this (copying something from one blog to another) so if you’ve read it before you don’t waste your time. On to the subject at hand…
I actually have tried this before, though that was for Spanish. I plan on doing at least six, possibly more, of these blog posts as I continue learning German via an online tutor so that you can follow my progress and get an idea of what it would entail if you were to do it.
I just had my first tutoring session the other day (and another one today, though that hasn’t given me much to add to this) and wanted to use my experience to relate to you how your first session will likely go and what you can expect:
- So far all the tutors I’ve scheduled a session with have sent me a message shortly thereafter, either asking for further clarification about my current abilities in the language or at least letting me know that the session is scheduled and they’ll see me then. So your first interaction with them will probably be with an iTalki message they’ll send you after you schedule your session.
- You’ll get a reminder on the day of the session about an hour and a half before it starts. I personally am grateful for this since I’m the sort of person who’s butt might just be saved by something like that (I don’t often forget appointments but it does happen).
- Once the call starts (on Skype, the tutoring sessions are all conducted via Skype), the first thing the tutor needs to do is assess your ability, to figure out just where you’re at in the process of learning this language. This is very important and can take a while if you’re not a complete beginner (if you are then they know just where you stand and where to start with you), expect to spend half or more of the first session doing this, though most of it is sort of done in the background. That is, they’ll be assessing your ability as they teach you, e.g. they might try to teach you something, not knowing whether you know it or not, and then find that you do and adjust their strategy accordingly. In other words, they’ll skip around and teach according to your specific needs. This is a good thing, you’re only spending your time learning what you don’t know and need to know and not spending your time on things you do already know or don’t need to know – the teacher figures all this out and does the work for you in this regard. This way you’re not wasting your time going over concepts you already know like you would with something rigid that doesn’t adjust to you personally like a software program, book, or class.
- My experience so far has been that the tutor will adapt themselves to you in every way possible, so that if you’re proficient enough in the language that the entire session can be conducted in it then they will, if you’re not then they’ll do it in your native language (presuming they speak it which is something you need to ensure beforehand). For example, my Spanish session with Vero was entirely in Spanish, this wasn’t a problem since I was already reasonably competent. My first German session was almost entirely in English since my German isn’t even near good enough to allow that sort of thing. I’ve yet to encounter a tutor who insists on doing the whole thing in the language being taught regardless of how well you speak it (that’s kind of an old-school technique that has, thankfully, mostly fallen out of fashion).
- Afterwards you’ll get an e-mail from iTalki asking you to confirm the session was completed and to leave feedback.
That’s pretty much it. I hope to be able to tell you more as I sample different tutors and get more experience with the whole tutoring thing in general. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.