Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Private English Teachers | What Makes a Good One Great?

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Wed, Oct 05, 2011 @ 10:47 AM

private English teacher learning japaneseWhy do students choose to work with private English teachers? In large cities like Boston or New York, you might not have the time to attend a large group class or you might have very specific professional goals with your English. Maybe you want to prepare for a business presentation in English or learn how to lead a business meeting in English. So your challenge is to find the right private English teacher. Many things like teaching experience, qualifications and patience are very important but what about the teacher's own experience learning a foreign language? Has your teacher ever studied a second language? In this post, I will tell you why I believe this is important and how your teacher's own experience with second language acquisition can make him or her a better teacher and help you reach your goals.



If your private English teacher has learned a second language...


1. He knows the process of language acquisition: Many teachers have a "textbook" understanding of second language acquisition because they have taken a certificate course like TESOL or CELTA, or maybe they even have a master's degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). But have they gone through the process themselves? If your private English teacher has studied a foreign language, he has an intimate knowledge of how the brain acquires a second language and can use that knowledge to help you learn English.


2. She has the ability to use a variety of methods: While your teacher was studying her second language, she probably realized that certain methods didn't work for her as well as others. For example, maybe she tried using flashcards to study vocabulary but realized that she was more of a visual learner. She learned that she needed to practice the new words in conversation instead of reading them. If your teacher has learned a second language, she knows that there are many methods that can be used for different learning styles (verbal, visual, active) and it's important to find each student's learning style to make learning happen.


3. He knows that learning a language can create anxiety: This is especially true if your teacher is currently learning or has learned a new language as an adult. For adult language learners, trying to improve English speaking skills can create feelings of apprehension, anxiety and self-consciousness.  If you are starting out at a lower level, you almost feel like a child. If you are working with a teacher who has been through this process, he will know how you are feeling and can use his communication skills to make you feel more comfortable and therefore, able to improve in a more patient environment.


4. She understands the importance of language immersion: If your teacher has reached a decent level in her second language, she has probably made use of the immersion technique. If she has tried to immerse herself in her second language and has had some success, she will encourage you to get out there and practice your English in everyday situations, like a language exchange.


5. He has a passion for language learning: If your teacher has invested time and energy into learning a second language, that means that he probably has a passion for languages. He understands the rich opportunities that become available when you learn to communicate in a second language. This passion and excitement that your teacher has will be apparent in his teaching style. It will motivate you to love the process of learning languages as well.



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Photo credit: jrkester

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