School vs private tutor

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School vs private tutor

Postby psy88 » Sun Jun 20, 2021 6:45 pm

I need some help. I am considering furthering my Spanish by either taking lessons with
an online tutor or by taking lessons with an online school. In either case the tutor or
school would be native speakers from Central America, most likely Guatemala. Has anyone
had experience with private online tutors? I know some are considered "community tutors"
and others are "professional teachers". I was wondering if I would be better with an
instructor affiliated with a formal school.
Thank you in advance for the help. I am new to this forum. I have been away from the other forum for quite awhile and discovered everyone has moved here.
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Re: School vs private tutor

Postby Le Baron » Sun Jun 20, 2021 10:51 pm

There are some other threads here where people talk about tutors (particular conversation tutors on italki) and the benefits/drawbacks. I've never used any of these online tutors, though I concede some may need to if they can't access any interactive exchange from where they are.

From what I've seen you need to state and make clear what you require, otherwise you might find yourself being drawn into lessons you don't need and simply paying for endless tutoring. That is probably more expensive than just attending a course at a school. If you're a beginner looking to get intermediate, or intermediate looking to become advanced and don't trust your autodidactical ability, it's worth pursuing a structured course. With that at least you'll know what its aims are, how it will be structured and what the duration will be.

I'm sure there are unaffiliated teachers who are good and teachers affiliated with schools who are not that great. That's always a gamble.
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Re: School vs private tutor

Postby iguanamon » Mon Jun 21, 2021 12:58 am

Welcome back psy88. I remember you from HTLAL. There's a couple of things you haven't mentioned that I'll have to work around:
1) What would you estimate your current level in Spanish to be?
2) What are your expectations; what do you want from a tutor?

If you are at an intermediate level, you may want to work on conversation and grammar. The thing with online tutors, depending upon which platform you go with- iTalki or an online Spanish scholl out of Guatemala, many of these tutors will lead from the top down and you may want to lead from the bottom up. I'll explain:

Many self-learners fall into the trap of having the tutor lead them with their own plan of instruction that may seem condescending to you because they're not taking into account your current level and what you may have already accomplished.

The other option is to explain up-front that what you want and need is conversation practice and help with grammar/vocabulary that you may not be using correctly. A native speaker instructor can help a learner with phrasing. As learners we sometimes tend to calque our own L1 onto L2 (especially when improvising)- The words may be L2 but the phrasing will often be unnatural and can cause confusion for a native-speaker. A good native tutor will help a learner to get past this sort of thing.

Myself, I prefer the second option. Finding it is the hard part. You may have to go through several tutors to find one who will work with you rather than try to put you into a strait-jacket. A tutor who will work with you is more than worth the trouble of finding them.
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Re: School vs private tutor

Postby sirgregory » Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:36 pm

Are you looking for basic lessons? Advanced lessons? Or conversational practice?

For conversational practice, you really just need native speakers, preferably a variety of them. Honestly you might be better off conversing with random natives than a paid tutor if the tutor talks too slowly, uses too much English, or takes up all the time with lengthy explanations. Where I could see a professional adding value is if they understand the mistakes you are making and they give you quick hints, translations, and corrections as you go (along with giving overall feedback and recommendations).

For learning the basics, there are many excellent packaged courses for Spanish available. I would do those before private tutoring. I have known several people IRL who have gotten frustrated with studying Spanish and who have decided to shell out for private tutors, usually without success. In many domains of life, money can substitute for time and effort, and I think some people (not saying OP) expect to be able to do this with a language. But it rarely works out that way and often people don't study enough outside of the paid sessions to get any real results. Intensive language schools can be effective because you're compelled to study full-time. But if you're only doing a couple online sessions a week that will be insufficient and consequently most of your studying will have to be self-directed anyway.
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Re: School vs private tutor

Postby psy88 » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:10 pm

First, a very big thank you to all of you. I really appreciate your help. You have all given me important things to consider. I think I am really in need of someone who can correct my pronunciation, expand my vocabulary, and help with overall fluency.

A little background: Most of my study has been on my own. I have completed Michele Thomas, all five levels of Pimsleur, and am now using Assimil and Lingaphone. I am able to converse in Spanish. I have done volunteer work with the Latino community in my area and many seem to be from Guatemala. I have been fairly successful but want to further my conversation skills. It has been said that if your Spanish is not so good, they will compliment you. If it is really good, they will just speak to you in Spanish. And, that is what I have found in my volunteer work. We just talk. It makes all the effort worthwhile when that happens.

Again, thank you for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate it!

And, Iguanman, I remember you as well. I always found your posts to be most informative, helpful and clever.
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Re: School vs private tutor

Postby s_allard » Thu Jun 24, 2021 1:55 pm

I would like to pick up where iguanamon has left off, if I may. Since I do quite a lot of online tutoring myself and I also use tutoring services regularly, I see this question from both sides. I would say that a good or great tutor can make all the difference in the world. As iguanamon has pointed out, a good tutor is particularly important when it comes to acquiring idiomatic or native-like speech patterns. The tutor has to be tactful and know how and when to intervene to correct and to suggest alternative formulations.

Before I forget, I'm assuming that the student is at a relatively advanced level when working with a tutor. Since tutoring is relatively expensive and there is so much self-learning material or formal classes available, in my opinion it doesn't make sense to use a tutor early on.

There has to be a kind of chemistry between the student or client and the tutor. I had one dreadful online tutor who never turned the camera on because, I suspect, she was doing something else while I was reading. She never asked questions and really had nothing to say. So I ended up reading aloud for 30 minutes. A waste of time and money.

At the same time, there was a tutor that I really enjoyed working with and I would go out of my way to reserve him. It was always lots of fun and time would fly by.

And there is another side of the equation that I don't have time to elaborate on: are you using the tutor efficiently? Do you come to the session prepared? Do you know what you want to work on? Is your material such as key vocabulary or a newspaper article laid out in front of you or on the screen? Have you warmed up by listening or reading before coming on line? Do you repeat the tutor's corrections at least three times before moving on?

Finally, I should mention that I like to work with multiple tutors or conversation partners at different times of course. This way I could take things I learned from one tutor and use them with the next tutor, usually with impressive results. Plus it's always good to experience different accents and styles.
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