6 Ideas for Leading a Language Tutoring Session

Private language tutoring lessons are a great way to increase the value of your course.

Traditionally, language learning is broken down into four components: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In a classroom setting, a lot of time is spent on learning grammar and building vocab, with written quizzes to test a learner’s understanding of each.

However, it is harder for most learners to get enough practice with the listening and speaking components to become comfortable with the language. Even when there are discussion groups for language practice, with the time split among so many students, it doesn’t leave enough time for any individual learner to gain the mastery they need to use the language outside of the classroom.

Online language courses can have similar challenges. Many online instructors can assemble grammar materials and write quizzes, but without language practice, it can be difficult for these materials to stick.

Fortunately, online language teachers also have a perfect way to offer premium content to their learners: one-on-one language tutoring. Individual lessons can help learners gain the experience they need to excel while also helping instructors run a more profitable course.

That said, finding ways to occupy a tutoring session can be difficult, especially if your learner is a beginner who is struggling to put a sentence together. Here are six ideas to provide value during the lessons and help your learners achieve their goals.

1. Informal conversation practice.

The easiest way to offer language lessons is simply through informal practice. With these kinds of lessons, you let the learner set the agenda so that they can focus the conversation on whatever they’re most interested in learning.

This style of tutoring session can take a lot of work off the instructor’s plate, and is attractive to learners who already have an idea for what they want to learn, or who may be taking formal courses and don’t want additional homework.

2. Test preparation.

There are several standardized language exams that are required for learners who want to study, work, or teach in a foreign language. Because these exams are so important, many learners seek special guidance from their instructors to prepare for them. And, because these exams always include both speaking and listening components, having a language tutor to help guide them through is especially helpful.

If you are familiar with the standardized tests in your language, creating material to cover in a tutoring session that targets the material likely to be on these exams can be a major attraction for learners.

3. Pronunciation practice.

Pronunciation is a component of language learning that is often treated as “nice to have,” rather than essential. However, mastering pronunciation is far more important than many people are aware. Not only does good pronunciation help a learner be understood in their target language, it helps their hearing skills and can even help them remember new vocabulary words.

Having beautiful pronunciation is also a confidence boost for many learners. There’s nothing quite like having a native speaker compliment your pronunciation for feeling like you’re making headway.

4. Courses on culture or specialized subjects.

Many language learners begin studying a language because they’re interested in a specific subject—literature, music, or business, for example. These areas may have specialized vocabulary or etiquette that learners want to master so that they can discuss them with native speakers.

For many languages, there is also a cultural component that is important for new learners to understand so that they can fit in while traveling without causing inadvertent offense. Offering courses that focus on culture can help learners feel more at home while traveling.

5. Writing practice.

While written language is not usually part of an oral tutoring session, a one-on-one lesson may still be a good time to coach your learners on mastering writing style. Having your learners come to the tutoring session with prepared writing can help, as can offering writing challenges during the course itself.

Consider giving your learner a topic and having them write as much as they can in five minutes. You can then have them read it out loud, correct their pronunciation on difficult passages, and offer tips for making the prose more natural.

6. Language games.

Finally, if you’re looking for ways to make your tutoring session more fun, think of using language games to help liven things up. These include rhyming games, dictionary games, or even classics like Pictionary. If you’re running an online group lesson, language games are also a great way to engage learners of all skill levels.

Examples of language games include:

  • Match terms. Choose a vocabulary word and describe it without saying it. Have your learner guess the word.
  • Rhyming. Pick a word and have your learner think of as many words as they can that rhyme.
  • Pictionary. Draw a vocabulary word and have your learner try to guess what it is.
  • Simon says. Give directions in a language, and test your learner to see if they understand what you’re asking of them.

Language practice is essential for learners to gain confidence with conversational skills.

One of the most challenging things for any new language learner is the moment where they have to start forming sentences in real time. Doing this in front of other learners—or outside the classroom in front of a native language speaker—can be both stressful and discouraging.

One-on-one tutoring helps learners grow in confidence in a supportive environment where they can make mistakes without embarrassment. If you’re teaching language courses online, incorporating private language tutoring could be the missing element that helps your learners find success.

Author

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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