When Should You Consider an Offline Language Tutor? + The Tutor Pages Reviewed

When I started out as a language tutor, the lessons I taught were face to face, right here in little Lancaster. I would walk across town or host students at my house, puzzling together language over a friendly cup of tea. It was lovely, and still one of the most comfortable learning environments I've ever worked in.

So when I was approached by British website The Tutor Pages, who asked me to review their service for hiring and finding a tutor right in your town, I was excited to bring you this perspective on studying. As a language learner reading a language blog, your first thought might not be "hell yes, IRL tutors are for me!" - I mean, we've got the world of Skype lessons and Italki open to us.

But even in a world of online learning miracles, there are a few occasions when finding a kick-ass IRL tutor could be the best thing you've ever done.

An Offline Tutor? Like..really?

Most of us associate an IRL "tutor" with after-school support for kids or teenagers, but you can actually find and hire tutors at any point in your life.

I know people who teach the Latin language to pensioners who want to follow their passion for history, and hundreds of native speakers who bring dry school materials to life.

Meeting Real People In Real Places

Being online is super convenient, but every now and then there's a huge advantage to being in the same time zone and same place.

Not only is it easier to demonstrate pronunciation and draw diagrams in a real-life meeting, but you can even take advantage of cool meeting spaces like the library or a favourite café. There are huge advantages of establishing such a Third Place, where you can be study-focused and work in peace.

Local Study Knowledge

If you're in full-time education and preparing for a specific exam, you want to find someone who can help you prepare in person. From mock examinations in person, to breathing techniques, I've found that having a local expert in the room really has the edge here.

What is The Tutor Pages?

In a nutshell, The Tutor Pages is an online directory for professional tutors who want to offer more than just conversation practice. It's UK-focused, so the easiest way to see what's available is to type in a subject and/or post code on the right hand side and off you go. You don't have to sign up and you don't have to purchase any credits.

What I Liked About The Site

First of all, I think it's great to see that the site pushes tutors to submit articles so you can see more about them and their expertise. Any professional tutor worth their salt will be super passionate about what they teach and have a lot to say. The profiles are awesome and give lots of detail about qualifications, pictures and personality of your tutor - here's an example I liked.

The variety of subjects on offer in this directory was super cool to look through. It's inspiring to see the range of what people are learning out there. I loved the sense of this website as a space where people go to improve their life.

I also liked the "Tutor Wanted" section, which is where you can post a request for lessons. If whatever is listed in the directory doesn't feel right, here's a space for you to put it in your own words.

What Wasn't Great About The Tutor Pages

It's clear that this website works hard on attracting web traffic, which means the site is keyword-focused at times. This is great because it keeps the directory alive, but it means you end up with a cluttered interface and a lot of words that no one needs. I certainly think they could clean it up a little.

The tutor search could also do with some improvement. The option of finding an online tutor is available, but I would have loved for the system to allow me more than one location option. Like, what if I want to find a tutor who lives in my area and still offers online classes?

The downside of having a directory that focuses on a wider range of skills is that languages outside the mainstream aren't represented. There's no shortage of people to hire for help with German, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian. But I tried searching for some of the smaller languages we polyglots feel drawn to and drew a blank. You can check out their full directory here to save yourself some time.

How The Business Side Works

The Tutor Pages is only the directory, but not the middleman between you and your tutor. On the one hand, this means you won't have to pay any extra commission. On the other hand, it could be a downside if there was any dispute between you and the tutor.

The rates are certainly fair for the British market. As you know from my other posts about language tutor pricing, there are lots of factors that go into deciding what you invest in.

Who Is This For?

A language learner looking for conversation practice based on their own studies might not need the full 1:1 pro experience. But if you're too busy to set and monitor goals, or want to cut out the hassle of following grammar rabbit holes, a tutor is for you.

In short, The Tutor Pages is best for:

  • anyone in UK full-time education who wants help with what their curriculum asks
  • families or parents with kids, who want to introduce languages to their kids at an early age
  • anyone who isn't sure about Skype tuition yet or wants to get out of the house to enjoy language lessons.

What do you think about IRL tutoring?

Have you had good or bad experiences?

Let me know in the comments below, or say hi to me on Twitter.

Episode 38: The Best Tools for Language Learning in Spring/Summer 2016

Episode 38 is brought to you with friendly support from italki. Do visit their site and check out the awesome Buy 1 Get 1 Free offer to learn from native speakers today.

Kerstin and Lindsay bring you the ultimate Spring/Summer collection of language learning tools. We each nominated three things we regularly use for learning languages and discussed how to make them teach you a language.

"I'm not as good as I think I am - but that's a good thing because it motivates me to work harder." - Lindsay

And if that's not enough, we then went ahead and created our own language learning chart for you.

Listen to the show to find out our absolute top recommendation.

Here's a quick run-down of the charts:

1) Forvo

Forvo

This is the place you can go if you want to know how to pronounce a word in any language. It's even useful for finding out how to say a word (or a name) in your own language. Forvo's top pronounced words of March 2016 were Cruyff, Slaínte and Leicester.

This one is absolutely perfect for people who are curious and excited about language and how it works. In other words, language geeks like us. If you don't know it, forvo it.

2) Spotify

spotifylogo

Do you like one artist in your target language and want to explore more? Then Spotify is your best tool.

Here is our podcast's own Spotify Language Chart, created for the European Day of Languages 2015 live show.

3) Workflow and Evernote (IOS devices)

workflow

The app Workflow is a way for you to connect different apps on your IOS device to each other. Use it to save audio from anywhere on the internet and save it, so that you can access it offline no matter where you are.

We recommend Workflow for anyone who loves to tinker and build their own little systems for language learning.

Workflow also talks to the Apple watch - have you used it with the watch for flashcards or uploads? I'd love to hear your stories.

3) Snapchat

snapchat

Snapchat is a social network that allows you to use your phone's camera and create your day's story with videos and photos. Use it to practice speaking or snap new words in your target language.

This one is perfect if you're embarrassed to speak, because whatever you upload into Snapchat will disappear after 24 hours. We recommend Snapchat for younger learners, and anyone who loves using the camera on their smartphone.

4) Readlang

readlang

Readlang is an extension for your browser or an app for your mobile device, and it translates any website. With Readlang you can just tap on any word and it will translate it for you - and then you can save it for later or add to your flashcard system.

It makes language learning so much more interesting because you can look at anything that's relevant to YOUR life. We recommend this one for learners who are intermediate to advanced and want to maintain their language levels.

If you're a Welsh learner, there's a similar system built into the BBC Cymru website ("Vocab" button in the top right).

5) Google Sheets Translate

This is the best for anyone wanting to build word lists in several languages. Google Translate has now been added to Google Sheets, so what you can do is build a simple vocab list in a spreadsheet, then set all those words to auto-translate into another language.

Here's the detailed Google article explaining how to use this function.

If you have a csv file, you can even export from your favourite flashcard app and add it back in to google. It's perfect for polyglot learners who are working on several languages.

Honorary Mentions

Welsh-specific:

Everlasting Classics

italki, Memrise (Anki/Quizlet), HelloTalk

Do You Agree With Our Language Chart?

You can get in touch with us and tell us what you thought by

1) leaving us an iTunes review by visiting our itunes page and clicking "Ratings and Reviews"

2) using hashtag #cllp (or #kerstinyouold) on Twitter (I am @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages).

And once again, thanks so much to our sponsors Italki - please support our show by visiting them today.

The 5 Golden Rules of Adult Language Learning

golden rules

Ever heard that you should be language learning like a child?

"Kids are like a language sponge" is a belief continued in the media. The mantra goes like this: Little kids are like a language sponge, they pick up any word and phrase you throw at them and will learn a language very easily.

And the myth goes on to claim that adults have missed the boat. They are starting way too late to ever reach any respectable level of expertise in a foreign language, and they'll definitely never sound like a native speaker.

Why? Because science.

This myth is about as widespread as it is infuriating. For examples, see the headlines on this article about babies and sound, or this inevitable product selling you on an invented cut-off age of seven years.

Adult Learners Can Learn A Foreign Language Quickly And Easily

In this article, I won't dwell on the volumes of research that have been done on human brains, language acquisition, speech therapy, ageing, and so forth. In a very tiny nutshell: Learning anything is harder when you're an adult, and the best evidence for any critical period is in the area of accent development (27 page ref to knock yourself out with at this URL).

There's a great selection of research on the topic, and for a primer check out the sources listed in Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language. The book is an awesome collection of helpful information, and was a fabulous resource for me as I was writing this article.

For today, I'd ask you to forget about anything you've ever heard about the childlike brain. Open your mind, and let's explore some realistic ways of making language learning work for you - at any age.

1. Analyse and Repeat Patterns

Adults can learn languages in a deliberate way. The structure of practicing new sentences is one of these keys - analyse, understand, apply, repeat.

There is no need to cram your way through grammar books as you learn a new language. It's totally possible to speak when you haven't even touched on any grammar yet. I did it in Icelandic last week, and I have helped my own German students to do this from the start.

But the key to using grammar to your advantage is in using it to answer your questions. Next time you hear someone say a sentence in your target language, repeat it and try saying something different with the same structure. If you're talking to a native, get them to give you more examples with that structure. If you're learning by yourself, consult a grammar book or text book.

What you are doing now is learning a pattern or chunk of language (like a child), and at the same time satisfying your curiosity by discovering the rule behind it (like an adult).

2. Set Goals and Track Your Progress

Goals! Projects! Missions! Whatever you call them, they are the lifeblood of sticking with where you are at as a language learner. Since you are a busy person, being accountable for your own time is one of the best ways of feeling both accomplished and efficient.

Tracking your progress is not only a good way of structuring how you learn. It will also help you combat the dangers of motivation loss. The longer you stick with what you've already studied, the easier it will be to keep going. In other words: It's easier to break a 2-day streak than to break a 2-month streak.

Tracking can work in many different ways. It can be as simple as keeping up with habit streaks on apps (Duolingo, Memrise, or just type "habit" into any App Store). Or it can be a detailed log and review base like your personal notebook. If you'd like detailed goal-setting advice, check out Lindsay Dow's course Successful Self Study.

3. Move On From Setbacks

I like to tell my learners that even the brightest student won't remember a new word immediately, and instead needs to encounter it up to 15 times before it truly sticks. Anyone who has experienced that cold sweaty feeling of forgetting words mid-conversation Knows what a language setback feels like.

But there is no reason to give up at that point. Remember progress tracking? The small wall you are hitting today is a result of the long way that you have come so far. You would never have dreamed of that wall back at the beginning.

Moving on from setbacks is largely a challenge to your mindset. Remember that language learning is not a straightforward line. In fact, it doesn't even have an end point. You just go along the path every single day and become a little better with each step.

For a bit of positive thinking "in a bottle", my pre-made set of affirmations will be a great resource to check out. Remember that growth mindset - at any age, you're just getting started.

4. Know And Respond To Your Learning Style

It's impossible to predict your success based on superficial facts: Your age or your native language are practically useless in helping you figure out how to learn German vocabulary faster. Neither will your star sign, for that matter.

However, the more you understand your own preferences and habits, the easier it becomes for you to learn a language successfully.

Being aware of your social learning style can go a long way to helping you create a language learning routine that you'll enjoy for a long time. For example, the difference between extroverts and introverts shows in how they practice, read and speak languages.

Knowing the time of day when you're at your best, or recognising signs that you are tired and need to rest, are other important factors.

And don't forget the ongoing debate about learning styles. Even if the classic "visual-auditory-kinetic" styles are no longer supported in research, it's worth finding out how you best process new information. As Edutopia puts it:

It is critical to not classify students as being specific types of learners nor as having an innate or fixed type of intelligence.

Find a style that you enjoy, that doesn't zap your energy, and that helps you set habits. And if that means speaking comes on day 100, so be it.

On that note..

5. Build Great Habits

If you want to get a better handle about how to build winning habits, start with how you make habits stick in other areas of your life. For example, some people stay fit by scheduling regular workout times, while others need accountability and love tracking their runs online. I recommend you start digging into this with help from Episode 32 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, in which we discussed habits, styles and tendencies based on the work of writer Gretchen Rubin.

Conclusion

So this article actually started out over three years ago, when I was first blogging about the many myths in language learning. I've always been bothered by this kid-language-sponge idea because it does nothing to help adult learners progress.

If you have the opportunity to expose your kids to other languages, go for it. They will do awesome.

But more importantly, do not ever believe that you are over the hill.

Here's how I finished my article in 2013.

Start thinking about this one from the other point of view: If little kids can do it, then anyone can.

I still believe the exact same thing.

What are your biggest problems as an adult language learner?

Leave me a comment below or get in touch - I'd love to hear more about what you think of the research behind this and the study methods I listed.

If you're feeling all fired up to get started and make progress with a new language right now, download the FREE Guide to the Best Resources in Language Learning by registering below:

Episode 37: The Secret Languages of Great Britain (with an expert from Omniglot)

Episode 37 is brought to you by italki, where you can find a language partner for any language. We tested it with rare languages like Icelandic, and it totally delivered. Get an awesome free lesson deal at italki.

languages of britain

Today's Topic: Multilingual Britain

Britain is not monolingual at all, but in fact it is teeming with languages. In this episode, we present you the real landscape of languages spoken in the British Isles.

Can you guess how many languages are indigenous to this country?

We discovered some amazing things, not lastly you'll NEVER guess what Irish and Spanish bears have in common!

You'll be surprised to find that more than 2 million people in the UK speak British languages other than English. Here is a quick summary of the bigger groups of languages spoken in the UK - not just British languages, but also the immigrant languages most popular in the UK today, for example Polish, Gujarati and Urdu.

Listen to our podcast episode to get a wonderful tour of the British languages, including:

  • What does it take to keep a minority language alive?
  • Did you know there was a Scots dictionary - and how it's influenced the English language?
  • Our pondering of the true official languages of Great Britain
  • Turns out children really are the future when it comes to reviving languages that don't have native speakers anymore, for example Cornish

Lindsay does some amazing demonstrations of the Scottish language and accent. And Kerstin says her first "goodbye" in Welsh!

Which British Languages Did You Know?

You can get in touch with us and tell us what you thought by

1) leaving us an iTunes review by visiting our itunes page and clicking "Ratings and Reviews"

2) using hashtag #cllp on Twitter (I am @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages.

And once again, thanks so much to our sponsors Italki - please support our show by visiting that link today.

Conversation Countdown: Tips For Starting Any Language In A Week

benny lewis countdown

If you're a regular Fluent reader, you'll know that my advice to any language learner is always to find a routine that feels steady and joyful. I've previously shared my own Welsh learning routine, which is designed for learning a language for life, not just for right now.

But every now and then, it's time to step it up and see what can be done when you start from zero.

A High Speed Language Fling

I'm currently speeding my way through the basics of a new language with with Icelandic, because next month I'll be spending 4 days in Reykjavik. You might say that 4 days of travel is hardly worth the effort. But for me, this is a lifelong daydream becoming reality. Before I even moved to England, I spent hours in my college room listening to Sigur Rós and staring at pics in this travel calendar.

When you learn a language for an upcoming trip, the purpose is not just to "look a little more polite as you meet the locals". Researcher Elizabeth Dunn has found that language learning for travel can boost your happiness when you make it part of anticipating your trip.

So when it comes to my little high-speed language adventure, the point is way more than just being able to ask where the Hallgrímskirkja is. This is about getting excited for the trip. The more Icelandic I play with right now, the more I can feel as if I'm already in the country. And once I get there, it's going to pay off.

Start A New Language In 5 Days

To get myself started, I went ahead and researched some tips from the main voice in speedy language: Benny Lewis. He offers a little course called Conversation Countdown, which I used to get added inspiration beyond what I would normally do.

I feel like I got to a nice little routine for "survival Icelandic" in just a few hours of work. I did not complete every action within the seven days suggested, but overall it felt like a realistic course with very well-produced videos.

Here are the actions I did take in Week 1:

Day 1

I got myself over to Omniglot, picked out a few polite phrases in the language and filmed yourself speaking immediately.

For me personally, the "immediately" aspect didn't feel as important as the course made it out to be. I'm confident speaking a language, no matter how little I know. But if you're a language learner just starting out, the effect is not just that you've got a nice thing to share online. This is also about your commitment to really doing this thing - invaluable!

So here is the result of day 1:

Yes, that's a dragon necklace.

Day 2

This day was about kicking into gear and creating vocabulary that will be relevant to my own situation. So instead of handy phrases from the phrasebook, the Conversation Countdown way sends you off to the dictionary.

Benny's instructions revolve around getting a great personal introduction onto paper. To be honest, I wish that I had also had a phrasebook available to pick up important travel patterns like Could I have a..., Excuse me, where is the.. and things like that. They are not so specific to me, but will allow me to navigate the typical situations with more comfort.

The selection of dictionaries I found for Icelandic didn't quite live up to my usual standards - it was Google Translate to the rescue. Here are the basics I decided to use:

Eg er fra Tyskaland --German
tungumál ithöfundur - language writer
I like learning languages - Mer líkar laera tungumál
fara í raektina - Going to the Gym
gera zumba - doing zumba
Ég eins og ferðalag - I like travel
elda - cooking
ég by i öðru landi - living in another country
sjónvarp i netflix - television and netflix
ég er gift - married
grænmetisæta - vegetarian
Eg hef by i Norður England i 2003 --- I've lived in England since 2003

How To Pronounce New Words?

Icelandic doesn't seem like a "say what you see" language, so I used Forvo where I could find the relevant words. For me personally, that was not really enough. This is one step in Benny's plan that didn't work so well for me - it didn't make me comfortable. I am better at picking up a language when I can spend 20 minutes on learning its sounds (guess that's why I created a German pronunciation course!). I ended up wishing I had a little dictionary with annotations and a phrasebook, and will be adding the Wikivoyage page to Forvo for future practice.

Day 3

After getting quite a few words of Icelandic onto paper, there's no more reason to wait. The Conversation Countdown course recommends getting out there with a native speaker.

If you are at the stage where you've said a few things in your new language to yourself only, there is no more reason to wait. Find yourself someone who will be happy to take half an hour to let you loose on them with that list of phrases, as this really will do wonders for your confidence.

Since I can't think of any friends who know the language, I hopped on italki and booked a trial lesson with an Icelandic tutor. Big props to italki there for its variety of native speakers in languages as rare as this one. My lesson was booked in just a few minutes, and Óskar sent me a message within minutes.

I sent him my vocab list from Day 2 - trust me when I say I got 85% of it somewhat wrong, but he still understood what I was trying to say.

Another great resource you should use for connecting with helpful native speakers is Hello Talk, which is the best free smartphone app for language learning.

Day 4 -> Day 6

I admit it - at day 4 in Benny's course, my daily responsibilities took over and Icelandic dropped off the radar for a short while. This is a great time to fast forward to the lesson he includes at Day 6 - just practice what you are learning and find what is fun for you.

This lesson is crucial. You're never going to learn a language if all you do is follow someone else's roadmap, so go ahead and make your own. Out of the suggested tips, a few were downright silly but I gravitated to what felt perfect for me: learning Icelandic through music. I dug out one of my favourite albums, Ágætis byrjun, and studied the lyrics to "smash hit" Svefn-g-englar.

Now I just have to work out who will want to listen to my poetry recital about childbirth.

Day 7

In this course which is totally focused on pushing learners to speak to a native speaker or tutor in 7 days, this day is obviously the highlight. And if that is the goal you have set yourself by signing up, I think you're going to be both awesome and ready. Benny emphasized how scary the whole experience is going to be - that cannot be avoided, right? But it's as scary as it is rewarding.

In Icelandic, I'm booked in for my first live class in 7 days. Cheating? No! Read on to find out what I think of that word.

Conversation Countdown: Yay or Nay?

Benny Lewis's course is completely and utterly focused on conversation. It instils a significant amount of bravado and holds you to your promise to yourself throughout, making language about being outgoing and connecting quickly with other people. He provides a lot of scripts and specific steps, and the pacing of daily emails is a nice way to move learners along.

What I didn't like so much was this idea of cheating in another language. When you come out and speak badly, there is no need to be ashamed.

In the course, he does provide some excellent sentences that you totally know you're going to need (things like Can you say this slower please? It's my first day.).

So if you set yourself up for stock phrases and practice a conversation that is somewhat predictable, you are not cheating. You're learning just as much, no need to pretend that you're a fluent genius of fluency.

If what you're after is this remarkable feeling of conversing in another language, feeling proud of yourself and having a breakthrough, then go and sign yourself up to Conversation Countdown. It's a good place to get started and deliver that early success experience.

If talking to a native speaker is not on your immediate to-do list right now, the steps are still useful and fun, but you may feel a little bit of pressure to do that conversation thing throughout.

Have You Had A Conversation Countdown?

If you have ever pushed yourself to learn a new language and speak to a native speaker in a very short time, how did you get on? Which other tips do you have for me in my mini Icelandic project?

Let me know in the comments below!