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I mentioned last week that I’ve been taking a much more structured approach to learning Danish. One of the biggest decisions I made from the beginning was to hire a private language tutor. I had a private language tutor in the past when I was learning Thai (we used to meet every week in a coffee shop), but this time I thought I’d try an online approach and find a tutor on italki.com

ItalkiChris

Generally speaking, having a private tutor when you are learning a language is massively beneficial. Even if you are the most motivated self-taught language learner, there are some things about private language tutors which books and other language learning materials do not offer.

A huge part is accountablility – if you have a regular time schedule for lessons (I try to have a lesson every week) then you are responsible for your language learning and it is easier to put the work in for the next session. Another thing which a tutor can help you with extremely well is pronunciation – they can correct you instantly and give you feedback on how to improve. Good private language tutors also create a comfortable atmosphere where it is ok to make mistakes and aid learning in a relaxed and (hopefully) fun way.

What I’ve just listed above are general observations about private language tutors. But there are some specific additional perks of online tutoring.

Learning from a polyglot
I think it’s fair to say that in general the internet has made it a lot easier to learn foreign languages than ever before. My italki teacher is a polyglot, who is very open about being a student of languages as well as a teacher. This comes across in his approach to teaching, as the struggles and inevitable sticking points of learning a language are very fresh in his mind. I’m not saying that every online tutor is a polyglot, but I do feel there is a growing amount of language learning enthusiasts online which ultimately brings up the general standard of language tutoring.

Google docs
A great thing about google docs is that you can share them with someone, and you have a cursor as a visual aid to guide you through the learning material inside the google doc. Generally having access to online resources during a tutoring session is also really useful. I know that google translate is a popular tool to keep as much of the session in the target language as possible!

Recording a session
This is a really unique thing about online tutoring: you can record yourself! I found it extremely difficult to do this – I’m painfully shy and generally I do not enjoy seeing or hearing myself in recorded media. I won’t be sharing my footage of my language learning sessions publicly, but I do watch over them privately and it does help reinforce material that I’ve gone over and to be mindful of how I can correct myself. I have a tremendous amount of respect for ‘youtube polyglots’. Although I didn’t find this aspect of online language tutoring necessarily fun, I would definitely recommend it to all serious language learners. It has ultimately helped to boost my confidence and helped me gain a lot more from each session.

Last but not least, I’d also say that italki is a very well designed site that makes it easy to find tutors in a large variety of languages, and it is very straightforward to get in contact and schedule lessons. They also send you helpful reminders of when your next session is coming up and other useful stuff like that.

If you decide to do it, I’d like to wish you good luck with your online language tutoring – I’ve found to be invaluably useful so far and I will definitely continue to do it from now on!

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