(This is a follow up to ‘2024 January Sale: Why 1-1 lessons with a native speaker?‘, ‘2024 January Sale: Questions about buying online lessons‘, ‘2024 January Sale: Getting started with your online lessons‘ and ‘2024 January Sale: Who will my online teacher be?‘
OK, so you’re learning Italian, French, Spanish or German and have decided to give one-to-one online lessons a try! Well done!
We’ve been teaching online for many years, and many of us are also language learners, so experience things from the students’ perspective, too. Below are some of our tips about what to expect and how to get the most out of your online lessons.
What to expect
If you’ve never done this before, it’s absolutely normal to be nervous. Even terrified! Like before a job interview, or a first date, meeting someone new and interacting with them in a way which might be unfamiliar, well, of course you’ll be anxious! Teachers get nervous too, before meeting with new students. It makes no difference if it’s online or offline really (except… see below) But teachers do this sort of thing often, as part of their job, so it’s reasonable for you – the student – to expect them to take the initiative and to try to put you at your ease.
Then there’s the fact that the teacher will be speaking to you in the language you’re learning, and expect you to reply in the same way, as far as you’re able. That’s also VERY SCARY, right? And yet, the teacher is a professional, and will know in advance your approximate level (based on what you have told our teaching admin team in response to the questionnaire they sent you). S/he won’t expect too much of you, and certainly not the first time out. So be gentle with yourself. When beginning, it’s normal that you might at times feel tongue-tied and frustrated. It helps me to remember that the teacher her/himself might be no genius at foreign languages, either. It’s the student that has the difficult part, right?
Expect the teacher to be online punctually (unless they’re Italian, in which case a minute or two late counts as punctual), using the medium (Skype, Zoom) that you have agreed together. It’s a good idea if you’re ready, too. Whether teaching or learning, I’m always online a few minutes before – computer on, Skype started, speakers and microphone adjusted, appropriate keyboard language selected, dictionary handy, etc. That sounds like a lot, but it’s just like getting yourself into a physical classroom with your notepad, pen, course book, smartphone and water bottle, while also remembering your reading glasses, adjusting your hearing aid (if you have one), and so on. The point is that prepared students will be ready to do their part at the appointed hour, and so get the full value from the time they’ve paid for.
N.b. If you’ve never done this before, tell your teacher in advance, and perhaps ask to begin a few minutes early, so you can verify that everything is working. It’s in the teacher’s interest that everything goes smoothy, remember. And/or ask a friend or family member to help you set things up, and maybe to do a test video call with you, so you’ll know what to expect. Like life, online lessons can be confusing, but that’s a lot worse if you aren’t expecting it and haven’t made any effort to prepare.
Expect the teacher to want to find out a little about you, so to want to chat a little, to ask you questions, such as why you’re learning, what other learning activities you do, what your level is, what materials or apps you use, and so on. There’s nothing to stop you asking questions in return. Find out where the teacher is, whether this is their primary job, what else they do in life, what languages they know, and so on. Show an interest! It’s a great way to form a positve relationship with someone new. And if you don’t know how to ask questions, hopefully you will do soon!
Expect the teacher to have some clear idea of how to proceed with the first lesson, even if you don’t. The best ones will be totally flexible, so that you may not even realise that what occurs is what they were expecting to happen, or how well that might be working for you. Less-experienced teachers (we all start that way) may have a lesson planned, hopefully something appropriate, and feel less confident about deviating from it. In that case, don’t hesitate to give feedback, perhaps in an email later: I liked this and that, I didn’t find this and that very helpful, I’d prefer to do more of this and that.
It’s in both your interest and the teacher’s that the two of you find the ‘right path’ for your lessons, the one that maximises your learning and enjoyment. That may take a little trial and error, but it’ll happen faster with your feedback, and with open, friendly communication about your needs and wants.
How to get the most out of your online lessons
Beyond the various points mentioned above, I’d offer these suggestions:
1.) ‘Warm up’ first. I try to listen to the languages I’m learning every day, but don’t always manage it. On a day when I have a lesson, though, and so am expected to speak and understand, I ALWAYS listen to something first (the news headlines, for instance), to get the ‘foreign languages module’ in my brain switched on and ready to do its stuff. NOT doing this means it comes as a shock when the lesson starts, and getting up to steam might take a little longer. If listening to the language you’re learning (even in the car, etc.) isn’t an option, try scanning the front page of a newspaper. It doesn’t take a lot to get that ‘foreign languages module’ booted up and raring to go!
2.) Review. If you got notes from a previous lesson, find a minute or two to read through them before you start the next one. It has a similar effect to 1.) above. If there are lots of new words in the notes, don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t memorise or remember them. But looking at them again will at least remind you of the topic of the previous lesson – perhaps you talked about your job and your family, for instance. Perhaps there’s something else you’d like to say or ask about those topics?
3.) Socialise! At least a little, at the start and at the end. “How are you? Has your husband got over his cold? How was your weekend? What are you going to do for the rest of the day? Do you have more lessons after this one? Where do your other students live?” Unless you have plenty of other opportunities to SPEAK the language you’re learning (and even then), the ‘natural interactions’ with your native speaker teacher are excellent preparation for what you will likely use your foreign language for in the future. And if you don’t feel you can ‘chat’ naturally in your foreign language, well don’t you think that maybe getting to that point should be a priority?
4.) Take control (where necessary). Some of the most useful moments in the many thousands of hours I’ve spent learning foreign languages have been right at the start with a new language, when I would Google how to say things like: “How do I say (English word) in (language I’m learning)?”, “What does (foreign language word) mean?”, “Can you give an example?”, “Can you repeat that, please?” and so on. The point is that even if you know little of your new language, and have zero experience speaking it, you’ll get more out of interactions with a native speaker if you can ‘guide’ what’s happening. Questions you ask, besides being excellent practice for real life interactions, inform your teacher about what’s happening in your head. More importantly, they balance things out in the ‘I’m the teacher/You’re the student’ power imbalance (which some people like, but I don’t enjoy), making it clear that she and you are partners in this process rather than master/slave.
5.) Be clear about your goals! And yet flexible, so as to take advantage of the teacher’s experience and different perspective. Personally, I belive I could learn the grammar of whatever language I study on my own, if I chose to, so rarely bother. What I want from a native speaker teacher is less of the ‘teaching’ and more of the natural interaction. I want to be happily interacting, and for the lessons to feel like a chat with a friend. It’s not that I’d necessarily refuse to work with a teacher on a grammar point she felt was important for me, just that it would need to be kept brief, and be evidently supportive of my primary goal. Of course, you may have entirely different priorities and preferences – some people just love to spend a half hour a week on grammar – but the point is you should be clear to yourself, and to your teacher, what you want.
6.) Don’t expect too much.
A thirty-minute online lesson should, hopefully, pass very quickly. There’s not a lot of time, and certainly not enough for everything you (or the teacher) might want to cram in. But that’s OK! Each lesson is like a step on a journey. The value comes as you progress, and it’s cumulative. You may not notice much difference after just one half-hour interaction (apart from perhaps now feeling reassured, rather than terrified), but after a half-dozen meetings things should be feeling familiar, priorities will become clearer, interactions more predictable. And perhaps six months or a year down the road, other people, and you yourself, might start to observe how ‘well’ you can now speak the language you’re learning. ‘Well’ doesn’t mean perfect, which you’ll probably never be, but more like ‘confident/effective/efficient’, which is quite achievable, with practice and time.
If you’re keen to give interacting with a native speaker teacher a try, but haven’t signed up for online lessons yet, you might like to know that our 20% coupon code promotion ends on SATURDAY JANUARY 6TH 2024!
Full details of that offer are below.
2024 January Sale: Italian, French, Spanish, German lessons -20%, ENDS SOON!
The NativeSpeakerTeachers.com 2024 January Sale has begun, which means that students of Italian, Spanish, French and German can save 20% on one-to-one online lessons via Skype or Zoom with a native speaker teacher of the language they’re learning.
Everything at our online store, NativeSpeakerTeachers.com, is a fifth cheaper IF YOU USE this coupon code:
BUT ONLY UNTIL SATURDAY JANUARY 6TH 2024!
For instance, you could buy ten one-to-one language lessons, and so practice speaking or get help with grammar, while paying for only eight!
That’s like getting two extra lessons of speaking and listening practice, on us! Use the following coupon code to save £££ on your order:
First make your selection from the one-to-one online lesson options.
Then go to your shopping cart and paste or type in coupon code 2024-January-Sale-20%-Off.
Press the ‘Apply coupon’ button. If you pasted in the coupon code correctly the effect will be to reduce the cart total by 20%.
Scroll down to verify that the cart total actually HAS been reduced by 20% BEFORE proceeding with your payment…
The coupon code is good until midnight on January 6th 2024. You can use it as often as you wish, with no minimum or maximum spend.
Restrictions? Small print? The coupon code can’t be used together with any other coupon code you may already have. Besides that, no.
So do find some time BEFORE SATURDAY NIGHT to stock up on online lesson credits – at an unbeatable price:
One-to-one language lessons via Skype or Zoom
Here’s that coupon code again:
Use it at NativeSpeakerTeachers.com
The next sale won’t be until April!
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