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How to Tutor a Foreign Language

Foreign Language

Whether you are a new to the tutoring scene or a veteran, you can appreciate that it is both difficult and frustrating to tutor someone in a foreign language. Some seek foreign language tutoring for personal reasons, others for a trip they may be taking, but most seek tutoring to help pass an academic course. Whatever the reason is, it is your job as a tutor to provide them with the best service while not compromising by simply providing an answer. Follow these tips and both you and your students will be on the right track.

Be a Good Listener

Being a good listener is a skill that is invaluable in all areas of a tutor’s life, but is especially applicable when tutoring a foreign language. If you are tutoring a foreign language, it is assumed that you have mastery of the language yourself. When you master a foreign language, you are able to speak with a relatively good accent, and can quickly identify those who are pronouncing words properly or improperly. It is important to listen to your student when they practice speaking. Listen carefully for how they mispronounce the words so that you can give them detailed critique and help them progress quicker. Telling a student that they need to get rid of their English accent will not get you anywhere. When you tutor a foreign language, don’t allow your student to slack off and communicate partially in their native tongue and partially in the foreign language. Although it may be difficult and time consuming, continue to encourage your student to communicate in the foreign language to the fullest extent they are capable. The student will progress faster and you will become a better tutor.

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Be Patient

Patience is a golden attribute for any tutor. It may be difficult for a new tutor to restrain themselves when a student does not understand a concept. In the same vein, it can be difficult to not blurt out the correct word(s) when tutoring someone in a foreign language. Fight that temptation and let your student do the talking. When you do speak, make sure it is slow and deliberate. Speak in a way that is easy for your student to understand and mimic. Realize that your student may be able to perfectly pronounce a word during one session, but then completely forget it by the following. Do not get angry or show frustration. Patiently help your student again. By the third or fourth time, your foreign language student will most likely get the hang of it and your patience will have been worth while.

Assess Your Student’s Learning Style

As with any subject, each person has their own individual way in which they learn and absorb best. Although you can ask your student which way they learn best, they often don’t know, or incorrectly guess. Instead, use your knowledge and observation to assess your student’s learning style by trying out various learning methods. Some learn best by reading, some by listening, some learn by picture association, or any combination of the three. Perhaps the reason your student is not grasping the foreign language as quickly as expected is because the learning method they are using is not compatible to how they learn. If your student is using a textbook for the course, supply other supplements to help your student. Although you may not be able to forsake the textbook, additional materials will help your student grasp the foreign language and make the work in the textbook easier for them to complete. No matter what type of learner your foreign language student is, all students need to practice speaking and conversation skills. End every session with a few minutes of conversation, using the vocabulary or skills reviewed during the session. This will help solidify the material in your foreign language student’s mind.

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While there are many techniques to tutor a foreign language, if you are patient, a good listener, and assess your student’s learning style, you will be better equipped to help your student. Before you know it, your foreign language student will be fully fluent and ready for the next level.

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