In this post I'll share a few ways you can take your iTalki tutoring to the next level, as well as give you an update on my Russian mission and iTalki New Year's challenge.
I'm currently 2.5 hours into my iTalki New Year's Challenge to complete 20 hours of language tutoring in just 45 days. You can still join the challenge, but be quick as registration ends January 31st.
Let me read the blog post for you:
The iTalki New Year's challenge is going strong, and I'm really enjoying getting daily lessons. In today's post I thought I'd give you an idea how my tutoring experience has evolved and also share some of the things I have found to be working really great. I'll also share an actual recording from a recent session. You can hear me struggle, stumble and pause as I desperately try to speak Russian.
In the second section of the post I will answer some questions that was written to me using the contact page. If you have any question about language learning, you are more than welcome to do the same!
What's changed in my tutoring
Lenght of sessions
A lot has changed in my tutoring since I began in autumn last year. First I discovered that 60 minute lessons were simply too long. After just 40 minutes my brain would begin to feel ready to explode, after having frantically searched every available cell for Russian words. By 50 minutes I could hardly say a thing, and by 60 minutes I was fried.
I'm sure this is different from person to person, but after I switched to half-sessions twice as often I feel way better. 30 minutes seems like a perfect length for me but also for the kind of discussion I usually have with my teacher.
Speed of the language
After my extended break from Russian studies over the Christmas period I told my tutor that my goals for the iTalki Challenge would be to speak better and also be able to understand radio and television. I also asked if we could speed up the language a bit. Up until now she had been speaking very slowly, which was fantastic when I just started, but as I grew stronger in the language it was time to let go of the crutches!
Now she speaks a lot faster. Nowhere near native-like speed, but a lot faster than last year. I can only recommend that you re-evaluate your goals with your tutor on a frequent basis. Also make sure to let him/her know if you have specific goals, so he/she can plan the sessions.
A clearer goal
My tutoring sessions last year were great, don't get me wrong. But they lacked the direction I was looking for, simply because I hadn't told my tutor exactly what I wanted. I was being lazy and simply left it to her to plan each lesson.
Since I stepped up and asked my tutor to focus on the spoken language we've started working with Russian tv-shows. And man, is it challenging. They speak SO fast! The first show she had me watch, I literally struggled to understand 1 in 10 words. It's getting better now with more and more exposure, but most importantly is that we work based on the episodes.
She gives me questions for a section of an episode and because this is my chosen goal, I work much harder to prepare for each session. Looking up words and preparing sentences. I didn't do this last year.
Often we don't quite cover the questions because we often go off on tangents related to culture and other normal conversation topics. This makes me extremely confident that I'm on the right path towards conversational fluency.
Listen to me in action!
Here's a brand-new tutoring session I had with my tutor this week.
We were discussing this episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrR7xZlKNzQ
Reader questions about tutoring
These came in recently from a user, submitted via the contact page. You are always welcome to send me a message as well! I read every one of them.
Do you recommend your tutor?
My tutor Anastasia is fantastic. She has endless amounts of patience and has a lot of experience in tutoring on iTalki. You can count on her to prepare interesting materials before every lesson, and she always replied to my questions over Skype outside of lessons as well.
She's also great at adapting the lessons for my needs, as I explained above. On top of all her fee is very reasonable.
What do you look for, when choosing a tutor on iTalki?
The best indicator for me would be the user reviews tied to the teacher profile. Go in there and see the scores and also if students left actual text reviews. Although iTalki gives the students the option to leave a written review at the end of a session, most are too lazy to do it. So if you see good reviews across the board, it usually means the teacher is doing well.
Experience with other languages, amount of lessons he/she has taught as well as diplomas are other indicators to look for when making your decision. Ultimately though it comes down to trial and error. Just because Anastasia works great for me, doesn't mean that she is the best fit for you. iTalki offers you 3 trial lessons, which are discounted lessons so you can try out different tutors before you hire one for real.
How often (and for how long) do you think one should take lessons there?
As often as possible! Depending on your budget, schedule and goals in the language. I would just go for as many as that combination allows. My feeling is that you should aim to get at the VERY least a lesson per fortnight, but the more the better.
You can't take too many lessons. But I believe there is definitely a correlation between the quality of tutoring related to how far apart the lessons are, meaning that the longer you wait in between lessons, the more likely it is that you have forgotten things that you could have potentially refreshed, had you had a tutoring session earlier.
Also by having more frequent lessons your general language learning is more focused, and you are more motivated because you are working towards a tangiable, upcoming goal.
That's it! 2.5 hours down, 17.5 hours to go!
I hope you enjoyed my post on tutoring. For more information on the topic I highly suggest Benny Lewis' extensive article on it here: How to find the right teacher for online language lessons.
How is your iTalki challenge going? Let me know in the comments below!