Warning: Skip This Step and Your Time With a Language Tutor Will Be Wasted

All serious language students will eventually spend time studying with a tutor. Tutors always want to be helpful, but even though they want to help, most tutoring time is wasted.

Here’s something you can do right away to make sure your next tutoring session is valuable.

Only have your tutors correct you on old material. Don’t have them teach you new material.

“Now wait a minute,” I can hear you ask. “Why shouldn’t I have my tutors teach me new material? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?” Well, not if you want to learn as quickly as possible.

If you want to learn as quickly as possible, you should use every tool you have in your learning bag of tricks in the way that it works best.

Use software for what it’s best at, and human tutors for what they are best at.

Human tutors are really good at correcting you, encouraging you, and inspiring you with the love of learning. Machines can’t do that very well.

But humans are not very good at being infinitely patient and available 24 hours a day. Software is really good at that.

Software is NOT very good at telling you to open your mouth more or close your mouth more or to pucker up your lips more when you say a foreign language word. Humans are really good at that.

Have Your Tutor Check You on Material You Learned by Yourself

If you are studying with a paper system like flash cards, simply take your most recently studied flash cards with you to meet your tutor and have your tutor review them with you.

Tell your tutor that you want her to make sure you know how to speak and understand the material you just studied. Also ask her to encourage you.

Learning a foreign language with software AND human tutors is a very good idea. If you decide to do this, make sure your software makes it easy to find a list of the phrases you just studied. This makes it easy to go over them with your tutor.

Our language program has a big button at the bottom of the main study screen.  Clicking on this button takes you to a list of the items you know. This list is sorted by the grade you gave yourself the last time you studied. It’s easy!

This feature makes it easy to review only the items you need help with, with your tutor.

Progress List for Study

This list shows you what you have studied sorted by the last grade you gave yourself.

If you take a list like this of material to review to your tutor, you will get the biggest benefit possible from your tutoring time.

  • Avatar
    Mike Worley

    Excellent point! And this applies to more than just language learning.

    Professional photographers supplement their incomes with “worshops” where, ideally, they teach you something. But few can teach, and most don’t even try.

    They can usually tell a good picture from a bad one, however. They just can’t teach you how to make a good one. Better to show them a stack of your pictures, pick out the good and bad ones, and tell you why.

    A rare point to add about language tutors. They shouldn’t be your spouse!

    And, unless they’re also a photographer, they shouldn’t be your photography critic, either.

  • Avatar

    I thought I had a language learning quirk that made it so I could not learn language like “other” non-dyslexic people until I read this. Intuitively, I’ve felt my approach might be stunting my own learning, but I haven’t had the answer. This has opened my eyes to how to organize myself for success.

    In the past, what I’ve done when I wanted to learn a language is think “I had better get the requisite supplies and find a teacher” – and head off to try the same old, painful, ‘high school’ route of learning language – flash card, drills, conjugation tables, terror of speaking up in the class, etc…and I failed. I never managed to learn English that way – so why I didn’t think to question the method when trying to learn a foreign one, I don’t know.

    When I travel, I find I pick up language very quickly, so I was confused by the apparent discrepancy in aptitude – do I, or don’t I, have an aptitude for learning language?

    What you’ve said here explains to me what has gone wrong with my previous efforts and I see better how to use resources constructively.

    Thank you! (and I hope you add Tibetan soon)

    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Colette,

      Thanks for your encouraging words. Did you read our article called, “Two Signs of Language Learning Genius” ?

      A lot of people are really talented at languages but they don’t know it.

  • Avatar

    That makes a lot of sense, actually… I’m only in high school French (and I definately don’t speak it very well) but I can’t help but get the feeling that mentally translating everything back into English, word by painful word, isn’t the best approach… I don’t know what else to do though! I hate learning sheets full of vocabulary that I couldn’t decipher a word of in a real conversation.

    Anyway, these articles were all very helpful, though! Thank you!

    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Thank you for your comments Wendy. Your difficulty with French is not your fault. It’s the method you are being told to use that really only works for a few people who are wildly enthusiastic about it from day one. The basic unit of language learning isn’t a word, it’s a phrase. The way to learn French is to learn a lot of different phrases. Then you learn to modify those phrases to change their meaning.

      If you haven’t already read this, you will enjoy Mark Benninga’s suggestions for learning French.

  • Avatar

    Hi everyone,
    1. Do you have English course for the speaking?
    If not, what is you suggestion for that? I am old one.
    What is best course for improve English as second…
    2. I have grandson 8 years. He speaks English and Russia (both native). What do you suggest for next language and what is course?

    • Avatar
      thomas is working on developing English translations for each of the current languages that we offer. There isn’t a best suggestion for learning English. What I recommend is checking into your local community college and seeing what they can offer in an English as a second language course. The best bet for enhancing your English speaking skills is with a tutor. Tutors have the ability to help you with the mouth and tongue movements so that pronunciation of the syllables will be more accurate. Accurate pronunciation deepens the ability to read new words and will build your confidence as well.

      Speaking a language with a different character set than the Greek alphabet is an excellent skill! I would recommend having him tackle another language with a different character base yet. Mandarin Chinese and Japanese will be finished soon and are two great options for him! Until then is there a language that he is interested in? Besides the novelty of learning a new language there is also the intrinsic interest that is necessary for someone, especially children, to learn.

      Go through each of the demos for the languages we offer. See if one of them catches his attention and dive into it!


  • Moved from Montreal at the age of 12 yrs. to Calif. without being able to speak French.
    Have been retired for 10+ years and have tried to learn the language in retirement but to no avail. Took French at a community college, went to tutors and also have been to many classes at Alliance Francaise Dallas.
    I have been motivateed to speak the language because of contacts I have made in Quebec City associated with the families Robitaille.
    I wish to communicate in French with them. I can translate their e-mails written in French but with generous use of a french electronic dictionary.
    It seems that your approach to learn is as close to total immersion as one can get. I have determined that my somewhat advanced age requires much more repetition for something to stay with me than when I was younger.
    Correct pronunciation is extremely important in French. By just using software how does one know if they have pronounced
    the words correctly?
    Should I try to call someone at your place of business. I have more questions than I can type here.
    Thank you for any info. you could give me.
    Emmett Robitaille

    • Avatar

      Emmett –

      Thanks for asking about the pronunciation struggles. The very best way to tell if you are speaking the words and phrases the same way as the recording is to simply record yourself and listen to it in comparison to the voice in the lesson. Your ears will be able to notice the differences between what was spoken to you and what was spoken by you. A great way to overcome pronunciation issues is to hire a tutor as recommended in the article. They really can help you shape the sounds of unfamiliar syllables with great success.


  • Avatar

    I use tutors as conversation practice partners. I may go out to eat with them or go shopping. I do every day things with them using the language and then have the correct me as needed. =)

    • Avatar

      Nena –

      That is exactly what a tutor is for – practicing and getting both visual and audio corrections of your pronunciation. Everything else you can do much more affordably with software.


Leave a Comment

I want to learn

Forgot your Password?
Remember Me