What Makes a Good Private Language Tutor?
You work in HR or global mobility and you’re looking for a language training company that can support your expats and their families. You need talented, dedicated teachers who will teach your staff where and when they want lessons. And, for some employees, you need an instructor who will meet them online when they are traveling.
So you search Google and ask colleagues for references. You read online reviews, download white papers on how to hire a language training company and make a list of companies to meet with.
After presentations from a few companies, you go to your boss with your suggestion. You’ve identified a corporate language training company that will ensure your employees reach their fluency goals in the right time frame.
So, classes begin. Everyone is jiving with the instructor. But how do you check back in about progress? Do you simply ask the employees whether they are enjoying their lessons? If they are, does that mean the lessons are transforming their communication? Are they improving? How are you supposed to get a sense of this?
We can help. Here is how you can know whether students in your corporate language training program are making progress.
6 Things Language Instructors Should Do
First, you need to be realistic. You won’t see a lot of progress when it comes to fluency until a student has taken at least 50 hours of language training. And that’s still stretching it. I typically suggest 100 hours for major changes. (If your employee just wants to improve his or her accent, it could be around 30 – it depends on the student’s goals.)
“But how can we commit to 100 hours if we don’t know that the teacher is giving us valuable lessons?” you might be wondering. “We don’t want to waste 100 hours!”
And you don’t have to. Make sure the instructor is doing the following things in every class, and you will ensure that students are increasing fluency in their second language.
Letting students talk.
The student should be talking 70% of the time — slightly less if they are a complete beginner with no knowledge of the language. The only way for a student to improve fluency in a new language is to practice speaking it. So the teacher should be speaking a minimal amount. If the teacher is speaking more than this, you should definitely request more talk time for students. Ask the teacher to ask students questions and make them tell stories. Telling stories is really hard, so anyone studying another language should do it as much as possible to learn new vocabulary, idioms and phrasal verbs and to get pronunciation corrections.
What’s the point of learning a new word if you never hear it again? In every class, students should be using 10 new words. Then, the following week, they should use those words again. Every class, they should tell a story using the new vocabulary. When that becomes easy, they can put new words in the mix. You just want to make sure your students aren’t learning 10 new words each week only to forget them the next week.
Assigning appropriate reading and viewing.
For students to sound more like native speakers, your teacher should not assign them to read newspapers, literature or academic papers, or to watch television news. The regular people they work with on a daily basis probably don’t sound like a professor or a news reporter. So these assignments aren’t helpful. A smart instructor would suggest comedy shows, movies, YouTube videos, even reality TV. They all feature dialogue that’s more like how people talk on a daily basis.
Can students walk out of their lessons and immediately apply what they’ve learned? Or was the lesson nice, but they don’t really know when they would ever use the information learned? Do students write arbitrary example emails? Or do they write actual emails that they would use for work? Do they focus on random pronunciation exercises? Or do they improve the words they’re saying on a daily basis?
Making class fun and interesting.
Students will be a lot more motivated to become fluent in a new language when it enables them to do something they enjoy. Think about it: This is why we all learned our first language. The people around us were doing things we were interested in, so we wanted to be able to talk to them and to do those things, too. Ask that the instructor create experiences that help the learning from language lessons really stick. For example, students could use their second language to talk with the instructor about topics that intrigue them. The more fun class is, the more students will remember.
Suggesting ways to learn outside of class.
Does the instructor give students suggestions like getting a library card or volunteering at their kids’ schools to make new friends? Do they tell them about upcoming events that will help them get to know their new community? The more language learners can be around native speakers, the better their communication gets.
To get a sense of how classes are going, you could ask your employees enrolled in language lessons to take a survey with these questions:
- What percentage of class time are you speaking?
- Do you review what you previously learned? Is the new information being reinforced?
- What is the instructor asking you to read, watch or do?
- Are the lessons relevant to your life and job? Can you use what you learned right away?
- Are the lessons interesting and fun?
- Is the instructor giving you any suggestions for meeting people to practice more?