Posted on | December 7, 2010 | 1 Comment
In the past few months, I have been focusing on a lot speaking activities. During the summer, I paid for some conversation practices in Spanish. I tried three different tutors online, and ended up picking one to continue with throughout the summer.
In the past year or so, my Spanish learning activities consist of listening, reading, and sporadically speaking to Hispanic friends and colleagues, and even people I met on the street. It is about time to move onto some serious speaking stuff.
There are many ways to practice speaking a language. Some are free of charge. In my opinion, unless you are already an advanced speaker of the language, you would be better off spending some bucks. Here is why.
Talking to friends and colleagues only works if you are already fluent in the language. Otherwise, you are torturing them. You probably have been speaking with them in another common language in the past. Being unwilling to be tortured, they will naturally force you to switch back.
Language exchange is another popular method. I heard it works for some people, but it never works for me. It might seem to work in the beginning, but typically one language will take over sooner or later. Again, it could be a workable solution for advanced speakers only.
The only situation in which somebody is willing to spend a prolonged period of time being tortured by you with your broken language and put effort to help you to improve is when she get paid. It is not difficult to understand.
If you want to try a paid tutoring service, here is my advise: spend all of it on conversation practice. I told my Spanish tutors in advance that I needed only conversation practice from them, and nothing else. I don’t need to be taught on grammar instructions or culture. I can learn these things on my own.
What if you are not able to carry out even a simple conversation? Then you are not ready to speak. Save your money and focus on reading and listening.
What do we talk about in the tutoring session? Sooner or later, we will run out of introductory topics. Hopefully, the tutor would know how to create topics and keep me engaged in the conversation. But this kind of tutors could be expensive.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to tutor an intermediate Cantonese learner who really knew how to take initiative. He mentioned an incident he had when he was in Guangzhou, and he invited me to reconstruct the scenario in Cantonese one sentence at a time. I was so inspired that after the session, I recorded the whole scenario in two speeds for him free of charge.
There could be tutors out there who have a lot of experience as language teachers. But I don’t need a teacher. I only need someone to talk with. If you know how to take the initiative in conducting conversations, any native speaker would work. There is no need to find an experienced tutor.