3 Challenges Commonly Faced by Language Tutors
Language tutors are enthusiastic, passionate people who love sharing their love for their language and culture with other people, but this doesn’t mean that things always go smoothly for them!
Even for the most motivated of us, there are some teaching challenges that we will inevitably face in the virtual classroom.
Knowing how to handle the following four teaching issues can help make your teaching process easier and, of course, help your learners learn more efficiently.
1. Dealing with a shy learner.
Since teaching a private language lesson requires a lot of speaking on your learner’s part, learners who are too bashful to participate in class can be an issue for language tutors. But should this be the case?
As it happens, it takes a committed tutor to make even the shyest of students feel comfortable and taken care of. This is how you can do it.
Getting shy learners to speak
The first thing you need to remember is that shy learners are not people who don’t like speaking or have nothing to say. On the contrary, they usually have a lot of thoughts and experiences to share, but they are simply too nervous to express themselves. When dealing with quiet learners, it’s important to take the time to get to know them and learn about their interests.
For example, you can ask them easy questions that don’t make them feel embarrassed or overly exposed, such as: “What was the last movie you watched?” or “Tell me about your favorite hobby.”
That way, you will be able to know them better and create a teaching plan tailored to those interests. What’s more, by personalizing your lessons to fit their interests you’ll make them more motivated to overcome their shyness and tell you everything they know about the topics in question!
Also, it’s important to note that shy people are rarely shy in all contexts. When they talk to someone they know they can trust, they can open themselves up and be more talkative. As a result, it’s very important that you’re not there just to ask questions, but that you too open yourself to your student and share your thoughts and feelings about different topics that you both care about!
By doing this, they will start to see you as a friend and be willing to talk more openly in the virtual classroom.
Very often, language learners are embarrassed to admit that they haven’t understood something, so it’s easy for a language tutor to assume that their teaching strategies have been successful when, in reality, the learner did not get the point.
Most times, this won’t become a problem, as the misunderstanding will occur in an area of the language that is not essential for the teaching plan. However, imagine how you would feel if, at the end of a unit about past tenses, you found out that your student hasn’t even grasped present forms and needed more practice before tackling the past.
To make sure that a learner has actually learned what you have been teaching, it is important that language tutors incorporate different teaching strategies such as the following:
When teaching new concepts and grammar, it is important for language tutors to recycle old information that you have already gone over in previous weeks or months. This can be done in the form of songs, games, or video activities. That way, you will be able to check if the learner has retained any of that old information before moving on and, if not, go over it until they do.
Of course, your learners have no chance of remembering old content if they never got the hang of it in the first place. Something you can do to make sure your learner is following you is to test them after every unit. Yes, I know. Most language learners tremble at the idea of tests, but we are not talking about a formal exam situation here! Most times, a quick quiz with some multiple-choice questions or a simple conversation that allows them to use the target language forms will do!
Language learners, like most people, can be very good at lying when they feel pressed. When teaching a language, it is important to ask your students how they are doing instead of assuming everything is going well because they’ve just nervously nodded when you said “So far so good?”.
To avoid problems of this kind, language tutors should make sure they take the time to really ask their learners how they are doing, using a smile and a reassuring tone of voice to let them know that it’s all right to have missed a point.
Start by incorporating the following questions to your lessons and make sure you get straightforward answers.
- “Do you need me to repeat any of the topics we’ve covered so far”
- “Would you like to get more practice on this before we move on to the next thing?”
- “Are there any topics that we need to go over one more time?”
- “May I use a different example?”
- “Would you like me to paraphrase what I’ve just said?”
Remember: Language learners can get a bit insecure and self-conscious, so let them know that mistakes and misunderstandings are part of the natural process of learning. Once they feel less threatened, you can often get more honest answers and thereby have a better teaching experience!
Every language tutor knows how hard it is to keep track of teaching strategies, new topics and materials, homework assignments and student progress, all at the same time.
If teaching is your full-time job, you can probably manage to keep everything organized by yourself. However, if teaching is only a part-time activity or you just want to make sure that your teaching strategies are not all over the place, it is always a good idea to create a teaching plan.
That way, you will be able to keep track of what needs to be done and when and, more importantly, both you and your students will have a sense of direction.
Improvising can be fun once in a while, but teaching language is demanding and, without any materials to lean on, you will be exhausted in no time. It is therefore important to prepare teaching materials ahead of time.
If you are teaching grammar, for example, it may be a good idea to prepare some teaching slides or choose a scene from a TV show that is great for teaching a given structure and have it ready before the lesson.
This way, you will not only save time now, but you will save time for the future when a different student needs to learn the same thing!
See how planning is not a waste of time but rather an opportunity to save energy and make teaching easier?
Sometimes, there is a song, game or video we want to include in our lessons just because it’s fun or motivating. However, you should never forget that your learner’s goals are your priority and that they should be the ones to inform your decisions as a language tutor.
Every teaching activity that you include in a language lesson should be connected to something that was taught before and also connect with something else that will be taught in the next lesson with an objective in mind, whether it is to prepare your learner for a job interview, a pleasure trip or a dinner party with their in-laws.
If you keep your teaching strategies and materials focused on your teaching objectives and follow a logical sequence of activities to help your learner reach their goals, you will have done what a language tutor is supposed to do, which is to efficiently help your learners achieve something that is meaningful to them.
Teaching your language as a living is not easy, but solid teaching strategies and a clear lesson plan can make it much more manageable. By paying attention to your teaching methods, materials and objectives, you will not only be teaching your student but also teaching yourself to become a better language tutor!
At LovLan, we are always here to help you become the best language tutor you can be, so feel free to visit our blog for teaching tips and resources. Good luck!