In the previous post I mentioned three places where you can find online teachers to help you learn Portuguese. One of the suggestions was Italki, the language learning social network that connects teachers and students.
One of the advantages of Italki is that it is an open marketplace that any qualified teacher can join and sell their classes through. For the students this means that they have a wider range of teachers that they can select from to take their classes.
This also presents a challenge, because not every teacher is going to work out for you. When the amount of options you have increases you have to be more discerning in your approach so that you get exactly what you need from your teacher.
In this video I share two important tips to help you get more out of your learning experience with an Italki teacher.
Get Clear On What Kind of Teacher-Student Experience You Want
The first thing you need to do is to get clarity on what kind of teacher-student experience you’re looking for.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with learning languages then you will probably want to have a teacher who is more methodical and systematic in their approach. Someone who will hold your hand a bit more and really guide you through every step of the language learning process.
If you’re more experienced you probably have an idea of how you want to learn, so you’ll need to find a teacher who is flexible and will let you guide your own experience.
Regardless of what level you are at, this is more about honing in on the personality traits that you want your teacher to have. It’s better to have a teacher who is slightly less qualified but is more empathetic to your emotional needs, than to have a super qualified teacher who is an asshole.
If you’re unsure of what kind of experience you’re looking for, just skip to the second suggestion.
Go Through Several Trial Lessons
Before you commit to any one teacher, it is best if you go on
dates trial lessons with as many teachers as you can afford to.
It is really hard to know before hand what a teacher is going to be like. Until you sit down and have class with a teacher you won’t know if you two will have a good working chemistry.
Take the opportunity during the first class to get a feel for their teaching style, understand their expectations for you and make your expectations for them clear. Figure out what kind of support they will provide you, what additional services they may charge you for, how responsive they will be via email, etc.
Previously I had written out a bunch of questions to ask a teacher before you take classes with them, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go to such an extreme. To be honest, I wrote that list after having a few classes at some bad schools in Eastern Europe and was feeling really upset. You shouldn’t have the same problems I had with most teachers on Italki.
At the end of the day language learning is all about improving your communication skills. Your language teacher is going to play a crucial role in that process, so you’ll want to make sure you start out by having clear communication with them.
Italki Challenge for Russian
Recently I completed the 30 day Italki challenge for Russian. This is a challenge Italki does every now and then where they incentivize you to take a bunch of classes in a short period of time so that you’ll learn more quicker.
I took 13 hours of classes with them over a period of 1 month. Half of those hours were me shopping around for teachers to find someone that I could see myself taking classes with for the next few months.
I’m also taking part in the Add1Challenge with the goal of having a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker at the end of 90 days.
Since I’m in this for the long haul, I interviewed a bunch of teachers with the intention of finding one that I could see myself sticking with for the next few months.
As a self directed learner I was mostly looking for a teacher that was fun to talk to and is patient with correcting my mistakes. Most of our classes have been conversations about topics that I’m going to have all of the time with Russian speakers once I get to higher levels.
Sometimes we go beyond my level, but I’m able to use Google Translate to look up what to say. Stretching myself in this way gives me a lot of motivation to want to go study more that way I can have more interesting conversations with my teacher during the next class.
Later this week I’ll post a 30 day update video where I show my progress over the last 30 days. Stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, if you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share about selecting the right teacher, please leave them in the comments below.
And if you have any specific recommendations for Portuguese teachers on Italki, leave a review letting others know why you liked your teacher.