5 tips for hiring a language tutor

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Despite having many free options to learn English, some newcomers opt to hire a language tutor. This is a perfectly good choice especially if you can’t find a free program that meets your particular needs or schedule.

It’s easy to find a language tutor. You can search on Google, social media marketplaces, newspapers, and community bulletins. You can also get a referral from friends or colleagues, or by asking educational institutions.

If you’re thinking of hiring a tutor, here are some pointers to help you pick the right one for you:

  1. Determine your language learning goals

  2. The most important first step is to list down your learning goals. For example, if you are intending to take college or advanced courses (like graduate school, for instance), you may need tutoring on academic writing. Or if you’re looking to expand your professional network, your might need coaching on conversational skills. If you’re applying for Canadian citizenship, your goal might be to increase your CLB level to 4 or higher, so you’ll need help on all four language skills. It is important to be clear about the specific skills you hope to gain or improve so that the tutor can customize their lessons to address these needs.

    If you are having trouble determining your goals, you may find the following method useful. Divide a sheet of paper into four parts. Label one part “Speaking”, the second one “Reading”, the third one “Listening” and finally, the last part “Writing”. These are the four skill areas for language learning. For each section, write down what you would like to improve on. Maybe you would like to write better emails (that would go under “Writing”), or maybe you want to be better at conversing with co-workers so that you won’t be left out when they are chatting during lunch break (write that under “Speaking).

    If you have plenty of goals/needs written under a certain skill area, focus on that skill. And don’t throw out the list just yet. Share it with your tutor to give them a better idea about how they can help you.

  3. Choose a language tutor with the right qualifications and experience

  4. Language tutors may or may not have certification to teach a second language. While there are uncertified tutors who are great at teaching, there are many reasons to choose one who has gone through an accredited program like TESL or TESOL. Teachers who are TESL or TESOL-certified are trained on lesson planning and delivery, and have acquired many skills that help them teach effectively. They also know the unique needs of newcomers or learners who know a different language (aside from English).

    Request for a resume to know a prospective tutor’s credentials and work experience. If references are provided, do not hesitate to call them. Ask them about the teacher’s qualifications, temperament, and work ethic.

  5. Online or in-person?

  6. If you are comfortable with technology, an online tutor can be a good option for you. Aside from being in your own comfortable space, you’ll also save time and money because you won’t need to travel. More importantly, learning online is the safest choice during the pandemic.

    Face-to-face is a good option for those who like the traditional way of learning. In-person instruction works best for those who need direct instruction and motivation.

    If you need a quiet space for your tutoring sessions, check out the public library for small tutorial rooms at no charge.

  7. Discuss your expectations clearly

  8. Discuss your learning goals, available schedule, meeting location, and payment details before the first session. A clear arrangement right from the start ensures a smooth and productive working relationship.

    Again, let them know what you hope to accomplish within a certain time frame. Ask the tutor if they have conditions or preferences that you would need to accommodate. They might also have expectations that you would need to meet. Remember that learning a two-way street – your tutor might be providing excellent instruction but you won’t get the most out of it if you don’t put in the time and effort.

  9. Communicate constantly

  10. Inform your tutor about your progress as the sessions move forward. Ask yourself: Are you happy with the pace? Are the tutoring sessions meeting your goals? Do you see improvement and do you feel motivated to learn?

    Do not be afraid to request a change in pace, lessons, or study resources if you feel that the current methods and materials are not meeting your needs. At the same time, be open to suggestions and techniques that the tutor may propose to you.

    For additional tips and ideas to maximize learning in an English class, read this article about making the best out of your ESL class.

Article updated January 5, 2022.

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5 Tips for Hiring a Language Tutor

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