7 tips on “How to choose the right Chinese tutor?”
China has the second largest economy and is also one of the largest trading partners of US. Therefore, it is not surprising that you’ve decided to learn Chinese. The next big step will be choosing the right teacher. There’s a saying “finding a business partner is just like finding a spouse“. You need to be very careful to find someone whom you can work with for a long time. So does learning Chinese, it’s not a short journey. Therefore, you need to find the tutor that you can efficiently study with for the long term. I’m going to provide the most important checklist on “How to choose a Chinese tutor” so that you can find the right tutor for you.
Choosing the right Chinese tutor
If you are currently living in China or any other Chinese speaking country, it is easy to find someone to teach you Chinese. You are lucky if there’s a Chinese auntie lives next door, or your Chinese friend either from school or work or even your Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend to teach you Chinese. Even if you live in a country where the Chinese language is not that common, you can still get a Chinese language partner through apps like HelloTalk and find language exchange opportunities.
But the important question here is “Can they teach?”
There’s a big difference between just talking and detailed explaining. Every native Chinese can speak the language without difficulty. But explaining “how the language works” to someone who is a complete beginner is another different story.
Can your teacher really teach?
Just like you know how to speak English doesn’t necessarily mean you can explain the grammar usage or the origin of English language. For me, my father is actually as good as a native person when it comes to the Chinese language. He can speak more than 3 dialects fluently including the standard Mandarin. My sister and I tried to learn from him when we were young. But he is not good at teaching. When we try to ask “ 爸爸 – bà ba（dad), why 情 – qíng (feelings, emotions) and 清 – qīng (clear, distinct )have the similar sound and structure but different definitions?”, he would just answer “that’s the way it is” and that’s it – end of the question. But actually, the definition depends on their different radicals, and their pronunciation similar depending on their same left-side component.
To learn more about the radical, please check out: Chinese writing
Therefore, it is the best to find someone who is actually certified in teaching the Chinese language if you want to learn Chinese language seriously. It will even be better if you can find the certified teacher with 2 or more years’ experience in teaching Chinese when you choose Chinese tutor. That way, you don’t need to worry about or doubt the tutor’s teaching skills.
Ability to make the lessons engaging
Another important factor to consider when you choose Chinese tutor is how much your Chinese tutor know about the Chinese culture.Chinese language learning is most effective if you learn together with its culture. It is not that important at the beginner level or if you just learning for fun. But as you progress to intermediate or advanced level and you learning this language with a purpose of career advancement in the future, these contents might come in handy. For e.g., if you want to impress your Chinese customers or boss, it is not enough with just being able to speak their language. You need to show them that you have put in the effort to learn their culture as well. Only then, you will gain their trust and favor.
the motivated tutor
Another reason is that culture makes learning a language more interesting and less boring. I remembered when I first learned Chinese, my teacher would tell me interesting stories about how the 12 zodiac animals in Chinese astrology become when we come across the lesson about animals. For a young kid, the stories were more interesting than just learning and memorizing the animals.
Therefore, a good tutor should be able to communicate with the student through mutual interest or to create a “fun-learning” experience for her students. And she should also have deep knowledge and passion about Chinese language and the culture, to be able to teach you about it.
If you want to know more about the Chinese language and the culture, check out “TutorMandarin Chinese Language Learning Blog ”
Fulfilling the students’ needs
A good Chinese tutor is someone who can teach according to the students’ needs. She should be able to teach either an intrinsic learner or an extrinsic learner.
An intrinsic learner is someone who studies due to personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Therefore, an intrinsic learner would be very curious and aggressive in learning. Thus, the tutors must be very well-informed and have deep knowledge about what they are teaching. Only then, they will be able to handle any question that the intrinsic student’s going to bombard.
Extrinsic learners are those who study because they need to (more than because they want to). For example, learning Chinese because of a visa requirement. A skillful Chinese tutor should be able to attract the extrinsic student to fell in love with the Chinese language and the culture. Only then, the student’s learning progress will improve significantly.
Learning Chinese language won’t always be an uphill journey. It is easy for an intrinsic learner to stay motivated during the bad times. But for extrinsic learners, they will need a lot of encouraging from the tutor to stay on track during the dark moments. Therefore, a good Chinese tutor also needs to be a great motivator.
To learn more about intrinsic and extrinsic learning, check out our previous post: I want to learn Chinese
Not afraid to give honest feedback
It is true that a good Chinese tutor needs to motivate and compliment her students occasionally. But that doesn’t mean that she should be reluctant to point out the mistakes. A good Chinese tutor should be always monitoring the progress of the student and give honest feedback and suggestions right away even if it is not the good one.
This is very important when you choose Chinese tutor, especially if you are a new Chinese learner. If your pronunciation is wrong but the tutor doesn’t correct you because she/he was afraid to hurt you, you will end up with that wrong pronunciation.
Sometimes the tutor must be courageous enough to take the students’ complaints or blame if it is for their own good. Only then will the students be able to learn the right things.
Interpersonal skills and Language barrier
the language barrier between the tutor and the student
This is the uttermost requirement for every tutor not just for Chinese. Like every new journey, learning a new language for a beginner is full of challenges. We might not understand straight away. The tutor might need to explain the concept repeatedly. When we are finding Chinese tutor, we need to choose the Chinese tutor who is kind and patient, who can really understand our challenges and accompany us throughout our learning journey.
The language barrier is not much of an issue if you are already at the intermediate level and you can communicate in Chinese with your tutor. But if you are a complete beginner, it is the best to get a Chinese tutor who can speak English or your native language.
If not, you might just end up teaching her English while you should be learning Chinese from her! This is also another reason why you shouldn’t teach Chinese from you friend or your pen pal.
Solid Course structure and Goal
the importance of course structure and learning goal
The goal and structure are very important if you really want to accomplish something. The building you build wouldn’t last long if your foundation (structure) is fragile. If you know that you want to go to China, you will take the plane that leads there. If you just go with the flow and take any plane without any end destination, you will reach somewhere else. It’s just that “would you be satisfied once you reach there?” Maybe you would, maybe not. No one knows.
Just like that, if your tutor doesn’t have any solid course structure and goals, she will just teach you unsystematically every day. That doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything. Surely, you will learn something eventually. It’s just that at the end of the day “will you reach your learning goals?” Therefore, if you going to choose the Chinese tutor, you should ask about her course structure and aims.
The course that she’s teaching must have a structure and a goal for you. For e.g., your tutor aims to teach you all the pinyin and 30 Chinese vocabularies after the first 2 months.
Your tutor’s goal for you and what he/she wants to teach you is really important. But what you want to achieve and what you want to learn are more important. Therefore, a good tutor must be flexible enough to change the goal/course according to the students’ needs. The whole course should be about you (student-centered style).
In short, she should be able to adopt the perfect teaching style based on your learning goals and create a solid course structure that will fulfill the needs.
Chinese is the world’s most spoken language and it is a good choice for you to learn as a second language. To Learn Chinese language is not that difficult if you learn in the right way. In fact, it is very fun and easy if you learn from the right Chinese tutor. Therefore, I prepare a checklist for you to take a reference when you want to choose Chinese tutor. Choose the certified teacher who can actually teach with 2 or more years experience. Try to get the tutor who has deep passion and knowledge about Chinese language and culture. A good Chinese tutor should be someone who is a good motivator, someone who tracks your progress and not afraid to give you honest feedback every time, someone who can speak your language or English. Above all, the tutor should teach in student-centered style and have solid course structure according to your needs. These are just the important checklist. But, in reality, you won’t know about the tutor unless you try to learn with her for one lesson. Therefore, I highly suggest to try out first before you decide.