Unfortunately, I missed last week’s post because I was busy and I didn’t have a post prepared beforehand. 🙁
But I’m back this week with a new post.
This week’s post is my personal experience with different iTalki teachers and their teaching styles. (The link is a referral link to iTalki.)
I’ve been using the site for half a year to find teachers for my online German lessons.
I have had difficulty with finding language partners. Time zone issues aside, I find it the idea rather… disconcerting.
In the end, I decided to try it out by signing up for classes with a few teachers.
Even that took a while. For the longest time I still had the fear of doing a video chat with someone. The idea of talking to stranger made me uncomfortable. (I still get anxious before lessons now. Yes, even after I have a few lessons with the same teacher.)
I had no idea what to expect because I’d only had traditional classroom lessons in school, and after that I’d spent most of my time learning on my own.
What I expected: An extended conversation, pretty much the same except for the person you are talking to.
That was completely wrong.
After trying out with a few teachers over the last few months, what I realised is that each teacher has their own style. They have their own preferences.
I think it would be a good idea to highlight some of these for those who are looking to start online lessons.
Following a Textbook
Some teachers make use of a textbook. This is very much more structured, and is more familiar to those who are used to lessons in a traditional classroom.
However, it is still different because you will be the only one in the class. That means that you will be going through and answering all (or close to all) the questions.
I think this is more helpful if you are looking to take an exam, but otherwise, it can be pretty boring if you don’t like the traditional setting and exercise grinding.
It can also be pretty awkward when you come to group/pair exercises meant for the classroom.
Still, because of the structure that the lesson provides, I do enjoy this sort of lesson. This is especially true when I’m exceptionally tired and just cannot handle too many spontaneous things that day.
Then there are the teachers that focus very much on speaking. The kind that encourage talking spontaneously, and some don’t use a book at all. (I’ve had one teacher tell me that he never uses a book for learning. Netiher does he use any vocabulary trainers like Memrise or Anki.)
I have had a few teachers where the lesson it was simply a random conversation about random things: How my week was, cultural differences between countries, etc.
In some cases, they asked me to choose a topic beforehand. Usually this option is given so that you can choose something that interests you. I usually tend to overthink when given the option, so I try to get them to pick a topic.
Other times, you could be given an article to read, and then you’d discuss it during the lesson.
I wasn’t very sure what to call this section, but it’s basically how the teacher provides information for reviewing.
You could technically record the lesson with the teacher’s permission, but I didn’t want to purchase the software that would do it (a free software I tried crashed on the first lesson).
So, this section is more about any written messages that are sent by the teacher that can be useful for review.
Normally, there would be at least some messages sent on Skype for key vocabulary or words.
I had one teacher help to reformulate almost all of what I wanted to say, which I found very useful.
Professional Teachers and Community Tutors
This is more of an aside.
As an introvert who has trouble keeping conversations alive, I very much preferred the sessions that I had with the professional teachers.
That is not to say that all community tutors are bad at it, but generally the professional teachers have the experience to help revive a dying conversation.
Most community tutors are not trained teachers, and so, they might not know how to react when you get stuck and have nothing to say. It can really get awkward, as I once experienced.
However, I said most. There are some who can be just as good or even better.
Lastly, I would say to give each teacher at least 3 full lessons before you decide whether he or she is for you. Any less and it is rather difficult to tell how things will work out in the long run. I wouldn’t recommend getting any packages before that either, especially if the package is for 10 lessons!
This is just a short overview of my experience with different iTalki teachers. I’m sure that there’s many more different teaching styles out there, so feel free to leave a comment about your own experiences.