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Keith Hayden, How I learned Spanish, 2018, How I Learned Spanish: Part 4 - Tutors

How I Learned Spanish: Part 4 - Tutors

Around the same time that I was using the Pimsleur Method and making make great strides with my Spanish, I decided to hire a tutor to keep my momentum going.

After a quick Google search for Spanish tutors, I was directed to wyzant.com where I was able to locate one that lived relatively close to my apartment and was available at a time that was convenient for me.

His brief profile on Wyzant said that his name was Jonathan, was a current student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and that he charged $20 an hour. That was about all of the information that I had on the day of our first meeting.

THE FIRST TUTORING SESSION

Jonathan arrived promptly that evening, dressed casually as if he had just come from class and had no additional tools with him. He was young, probably no older than 22 years-old, and clearly didn't have much experience tutoring.

I noticed this early on during our lesson and took the initiative to show him some of the tools and methods that I was using to teach myself Spanish. This helped provide some structure to our “lesson”, which played out more like a Q&A with me asking him more questions in English than in Spanish. He spoke some Spanish with me, but not enough to be beneficial for me.

At the end of the hour, I remember playing a few songs sung in Spanish for Jonathan and having him translate them for me. It was revealing to finally understand what the lyrics of “Así es la Vida” by Elefante meant, but I wasn't sure if the session had been worth $20.

After Jonathan left, I began to wonder about where he and I had gone wrong with the tutoring session and how I could get more out of future sessions.

Here are a few of my thoughts, which I have compiled after having worked with several tutors in Spanish, Japanese and Korean, on and offline over the last 4 years.

THOUGHT 1: HAVE A PLAN AND SHARE IT WITH YOUR TUTOR BEFOREHAND (IF POSSIBLE)

This is something that I used to only think of shortly after my tutoring sessions began and the tutor asks me “So what do you want to talk about, today?”

The fact is nowadays, pretty much anyone can become a language tutor. While many of these tutors do (in general) know Spanish and English well enough to teach the language, many have little to no experience on how to teach or make students retain information. The result is that many tutoring sessions are full of awkward and unfocused pauses that eat away at precious time (and money) for both individuals.

Having a plan for what you need/want to work on during the session will help keep you and your tutor on track. So that even if you do deviate off course to ask about things unrelated to the language, you will always have your plan to fall back on. Your tutor will also be able to hold you accountable for the things you need to practice, which will allow them to further tailor the session to your needs.

THOUGHT 2: SPEAK YOUR TARGET LANGUAGE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

So you finally worked up the courage to set up the Skype session for tutoring in Spanish. They call you at the appointed time, and their smiling face appears on your screen. After exchanging greetings, you quickly realize that you don't know how to have even a small conversation in Spanish. They look at you patiently waiting for you to say something, but you're too embarrassed/shy/scared to dare to say anything to them using your shameful Spanish, so you revert to English and go nearly the entire session without even attempting to speak it at all.

I have had this exact scenario play out numerous times with many different tutors. Afterwards, I always felt foolish for not having tried to speak more of the language, because after all, I was a non-native speaker trying to learn a foreign language, I wasn't supposed to be good at it yet. They didn't expect me to speak fluently, so why should I?

The whole point of working with a tutor is to improve your language skills, in order to do that, you have to open your mouth and speak, even if you think it sounds terrible. After all you wouldn't take piano lessons and never touch a piano would you?

THOUGHT 3: CHECK YOUR EGO

The ego can be a fantastic thing. It gives us confidence and protects us from people and things in the world that can be cold and indifferent. However, when it comes to tutoring, your ego can become your worst enemy.

Your ego is that thing that makes you feel resentment to your tutor after they've corrected you for the 100th time on not rolling your Rs or not using the the subjunctive properly. Your ego makes you feel like you don't need to sign up for another session because you've already achieved a level of memorized fluency and you think you don't need to practice anymore.

It can be difficult to humble yourself and walk into a tutoring session without your ego blocking you from accepting feedback from your tutor. If you've ever tried to learn a language on your own, I'm sure you've felt the presence of your ego blocking your language learning path, I know I have.

Remember when you were a kid an you ran to the playground during recess? Your goal was primarily have fun and see how much you could do.

How many times can I go across the monkey bars?

How fast can I run across that field?

How fast can I run up that slide?

Thinking of your tutoring sessions as a playground to play and even (maybe) have fun with the language, will help shift the perspective of the shame at what you can't do/say in the language, to that of how impressed you are with what you can do.

With that attitude, you'll be surprised at how much fast you will begin to reach your language goals.

HOW TUTORS HAVE HELPED MY SPANISH

Over the years tutors have helped me in so many ways with my Spanish. Below are just a few of the ways that, I've benefitted from tutors over the years.

Improved pronunciation

Broadened knowledge about Spanish culture

Various techniques on how to improve my self-study

Increased vocabulary

Increased fluency

Pointed out weaknesses in my pronunciation

As a matter of fact, I met with my tutor, Victor, a day before writing this post after not meeting with him for about 5 months. In that time period, I had read my first 3 novels completely in Spanish and achieved various other milestones with my skills.

After thanking him for working with me off and on for the past 4 years he replied, “¡Como vuela el tiempo!”, as I thought about how far I had come with Spanish with his help and the help of others.

FOR THOSE THINKING OF USING A TUTOR…

I highly suggest you find a tutor to help you with your Spanish or what ever other language that you're learning. I have mostly used italki.com over the years, but I know there are several other programs, apps, etc. that allow you to connect with native speakers. You may have to look around before you find a tutor that fits your personality and style, but the search will be well worth it in the end.

Remember, just like most other language learning tools, the results that you can achieve depend on the amount of effort that you put into it.

You cannot rely solely on the tutor to teach you the language. You must continue to practice on your own outside of the tutoring sessions to be able to get the most out of what a good tutor offers. If you do that, you will not only be able to speak the language better, but also form a great relationship in the process.


How I Learned Spanish: Part 4 - Tutors

Around the same time that I was using the Pimsleur Method and making make great strides with my Spanish, I decided to hire a tutor to keep my momentum going.

After a quick Google search for Spanish tutors, I was directed to wyzant.com where I was able to locate one that lived relatively close to my apartment and was available at a time that was convenient for me.

His brief profile on Wyzant said that his name was Jonathan, was a current student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and that he charged $20 an hour. That was about all of the information that I had on the day of our first meeting.

THE FIRST TUTORING SESSION

Jonathan arrived promptly that evening, dressed casually as if he had just come from class and had no additional tools with him. He was young, probably no older than 22 years-old, and clearly didn't have much experience tutoring.

I noticed this early on during our lesson and took the initiative to show him some of the tools and methods that I was using to teach myself Spanish. This helped provide some structure to our “lesson”, which played out more like a Q&A with me asking him more questions in English than in Spanish. He spoke some Spanish with me, but not enough to be beneficial for me.

At the end of the hour, I remember playing a few songs sung in Spanish for Jonathan and having him translate them for me. It was revealing to finally understand what the lyrics of “Así es la Vida” by Elefante meant, but I wasn't sure if the session had been worth $20.

After Jonathan left, I began to wonder about where he and I had gone wrong with the tutoring session and how I could get more out of future sessions.

Here are a few of my thoughts, which I have compiled after having worked with several tutors in Spanish, Japanese and Korean, on and offline over the last 4 years.

THOUGHT 1: HAVE A PLAN AND SHARE IT WITH YOUR TUTOR BEFOREHAND (IF POSSIBLE)

This is something that I used to only think of shortly after my tutoring sessions began and the tutor asks me “So what do you want to talk about, today?”

The fact is nowadays, pretty much anyone can become a language tutor. While many of these tutors do (in general) know Spanish and English well enough to teach the language, many have little to no experience on how to teach or make students retain information. The result is that many tutoring sessions are full of awkward and unfocused pauses that eat away at precious time (and money) for both individuals.

Having a plan for what you need/want to work on during the session will help keep you and your tutor on track. So that even if you do deviate off course to ask about things unrelated to the language, you will always have your plan to fall back on. Your tutor will also be able to hold you accountable for the things you need to practice, which will allow them to further tailor the session to your needs.

THOUGHT 2: SPEAK YOUR TARGET LANGUAGE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

So you finally worked up the courage to set up the Skype session for tutoring in Spanish. They call you at the appointed time, and their smiling face appears on your screen. After exchanging greetings, you quickly realize that you don't know how to have even a small conversation in Spanish. They look at you patiently waiting for you to say something, but you're too embarrassed/shy/scared to dare to say anything to them using your shameful Spanish, so you revert to English and go nearly the entire session without even attempting to speak it at all.

I have had this exact scenario play out numerous times with many different tutors. Afterwards, I always felt foolish for not having tried to speak more of the language, because after all, I was a non-native speaker trying to learn a foreign language, I wasn't supposed to be good at it yet. They didn't expect me to speak fluently, so why should I?

The whole point of working with a tutor is to improve your language skills, in order to do that, you have to open your mouth and speak, even if you think it sounds terrible. After all you wouldn't take piano lessons and never touch a piano would you?

THOUGHT 3: CHECK YOUR EGO

The ego can be a fantastic thing. It gives us confidence and protects us from people and things in the world that can be cold and indifferent. However, when it comes to tutoring, your ego can become your worst enemy.

Your ego is that thing that makes you feel resentment to your tutor after they've corrected you for the 100th time on not rolling your Rs or not using the the subjunctive properly. Your ego makes you feel like you don't need to sign up for another session because you've already achieved a level of memorized fluency and you think you don't need to practice anymore.

It can be difficult to humble yourself and walk into a tutoring session without your ego blocking you from accepting feedback from your tutor. If you've ever tried to learn a language on your own, I'm sure you've felt the presence of your ego blocking your language learning path, I know I have.

Remember when you were a kid an you ran to the playground during recess? Your goal was primarily have fun and see how much you could do.

How many times can I go across the monkey bars?

How fast can I run across that field?

How fast can I run up that slide?

Thinking of your tutoring sessions as a playground to play and even (maybe) have fun with the language, will help shift the perspective of the shame at what you can't do/say in the language, to that of how impressed you are with what you can do.

With that attitude, you'll be surprised at how much fast you will begin to reach your language goals.

HOW TUTORS HAVE HELPED MY SPANISH

Over the years tutors have helped me in so many ways with my Spanish. Below are just a few of the ways that, I've benefitted from tutors over the years.

Improved pronunciation

Broadened knowledge about Spanish culture

Various techniques on how to improve my self-study

Increased vocabulary

Increased fluency

Pointed out weaknesses in my pronunciation

As a matter of fact, I met with my tutor, Victor, a day before writing this post after not meeting with him for about 5 months. In that time period, I had read my first 3 novels completely in Spanish and achieved various other milestones with my skills.

After thanking him for working with me off and on for the past 4 years he replied, “¡Como vuela el tiempo!”, as I thought about how far I had come with Spanish with his help and the help of others.

FOR THOSE THINKING OF USING A TUTOR…

I highly suggest you find a tutor to help you with your Spanish or what ever other language that you're learning. I have mostly used italki.com over the years, but I know there are several other programs, apps, etc. that allow you to connect with native speakers. You may have to look around before you find a tutor that fits your personality and style, but the search will be well worth it in the end.

Remember, just like most other language learning tools, the results that you can achieve depend on the amount of effort that you put into it.

You cannot rely solely on the tutor to teach you the language. You must continue to practice on your own outside of the tutoring sessions to be able to get the most out of what a good tutor offers. If you do that, you will not only be able to speak the language better, but also form a great relationship in the process.