When I moved to China in 2009, I arrived with a handful of basic phrases of Mandarin Chinese and started on the difficult path towards fluency. From the beginning, I had a one-on-one language teacher and I honestly do not think that I would have been able to achieve my high level of Chinese proficiency without her help. In addition, from my experience as a one-on-one English language trainer, I have seen the benefits of personalized language training from a teacher’s perspective and how useful it can be for students. So, here are some of the biggest benefits of a personalized language trainer.
Focused Constructive Criticism
The critical piece that is missing from learning a language in a large classroom is the ability of the teacher to give focused, personalized feedback to the students. It is difficult for a teacher to give detailed, constructive comments in large classes due to time constraints. However, when we are learning another language, we need to know exactly what we are doing right and what aspect in the language we can improve. If we are in an everyday situation using another language, most of the time our interlocutor won’t interrupt us to correct our mistakes. The trouble is that we need those corrections presented to us in a constructive way to help us improve. So a personal language tutor can not only correct those mistakes, but can keep track of them over a significant length of time with the student. If we continue to make the same mistake week after week, then the teacher will be able to modify the course material to help us overcome that particular issue.
A good personalized language teacher should be able to handle and explain a variety of questions from the student to help them understand more difficult concepts. When I was studying with my Mandarin teacher, I would bring a list of questions I had accumulated between our classes to ask her about various nuances in Chinese. I would come to class with questions about when to use a word or the difference between two closely-related words or a particularly difficult grammar rule and we would spend time on them until it was completely clear for me. A secondary benefit of asking questions is that the student feels more involved in the class. The student spends time learning material that is most relevant to them and their daily life. If a student is a doctor or an engineer, the ability to ask direct, specific questions to the teacher will keep them more involved in the class and maintain a higher interest in the continuing their studies.
As a teacher, it can be very difficult to have a large class of students who are at different levels in their language ability. If you teach too high, some students can’t follow along with more difficult material. If you teacher too low, the higher level students are aren’t challenged enough to make a difference in their language skill. In a one-on-one situation, the teacher can modify their voice to the exact degree of their student’s current level. This way students aren’t left behind or bored; a skilled tutor will be able to push the student by increasing the difficulty ever class. This is also effective for building the student’s confidence because they will be making small but noticeable improvements in their language. The enormous task of learning another language is broken down into smaller, more manageable bits.
Increased Talk Time
In a large classroom setting, it is difficult for every student to get a solid amount of time speaking. Reading and listening are both passive skills and writing can be done outside of the classroom, so it is critical to use classroom time for helping students with their speaking ability. So, it’s logical that the fewer students in a class, there are more opportunities there are to speak. This is arguably the greatest benefit of a one-on-one language teacher. The student can use the majority of the class time to practice his speaking and pronunciation. Increased talk time, combined with constructive feedback is the most effective way a teacher can help a student improve their oral language abilities. Also, with greater practice, the student begins to feel more confident in their ability to effectively convey their meaning in the second language. This confidence will help them speak more fluently in real-world situations and, subsequently, continue to improve their speaking skills.
From my personal experience, one-to-one teaching is the most effective way to language another language. The personalized content we receive is especially invaluable when we are trying to improve our speaking and listening abilities. The amount of feedback and personal attention that a student receives from a one-on-one teacher is critical whether the student a novice or well on their way to mastering their new language.