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Find the right language teacher

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

You may have gone online trying to find the perfect teacher but you did not even know where to start. Perhaps you are not sure what to consider when selecting the right tutor for your specific needs. With that in mind, I will give you a few tips on how to find the perfect teacher and what you should consider before making a decision.

I have worked with English and Portuguese language courses since 2004, as well as learning English and Spanish as second languages since 2000, and attempting to fit Italian lessons to my busy schedule. So I may use these languages as examples, but what I say below applies to most languages.

Let's start by finding out who you are and what you need. Let's think of important questions we need answered:

What is your learning style?

When you approach a new subject how do you better absorb it? I am not going to dive too deeply into it, but you may use these methods to support your own comprehension:

Visual (Spatial) - drawings, diagrams

Aural (Auditory-Musical) - audible signals, listening something out loud

Verbal (Linguistic) - writing, reading, meaning or sounds of words

Physical (Kinaesthetic) - physical activities, hands-on

Logical (Mathematical) - recognising patterns, classifying information

Social (Interpersonal) - socializing, communicating

Solitary (Intrapersonal) - independent, introspective

Suggestion: Search online for more information on "Learning Styles"

Note that you may also need a challenge, so it might be worth experimenting on combining methods for better learning.

I am a visual learner, I use the same methods to learn and to teach. I take advantage of these skills when I prepare my lessons. Because I need to see what I am working on, I tend to prepare visual-communicative lessons which allow my students to see what we are working on, follow steps and have practical examples. I am also linguistic and kinaesthetic, I need to read and write, practice to understand things better.

Believe me, when you know what type of learner you are, it will be a lot easier to decide what kind of lessons would better suit you and which teacher/methodology is best for you. What would be a perfect method for some may not be the best for others. Some people like learning through repetition, I may get a bit annoyed with that style though.

Why do you wish to take language lessons?

The second thing to consider is why you would like to take language lessons. Perhaps you need to speak a second language for your professional development, maybe you are planning a holiday trip, or maybe you have met the love of you life in this new country. Most of my students have either met their partners abroad or are moving to another country, searching for a better life.

Once you have defined why you wish to learn a new language, you will be able to tell teachers what exactly you need, then you will be able to see if he/she has had experience with this type of lessons and/or is able to create a good teaching plan for your needs.

Can a native speaker teach me the language?

Definitely! As the grammarian and philologist Evanildo Bechara has said "O falante deve ser poliglota em sua própria língua" [The speaker should be a polyglot in his own language]. So many people have amazing language skills, and knowing their native language deeply is an incredible asset. However, not everyone is prepared to teach.

Think about your native language and how you express yourself naturally. 9 out of 10 times you know the correct way of saying something but you cannot explain why it is the way it is. A language tutor needs to have a good foundation to fulfil the students' needs, especially when it is an adult who question about why things are the way they are.

If you are simply looking for someone who will tell you how to say things in your target language, often based on translation, a native person without a teaching degree will be able to guide you through that.

On the other hand, a well-prepared teacher will be able to do that and much more. They should be able to include all four skills in their planning (reading, writing, listening and speaking). It is also essential to adapt resources and approaches to better welcome different types of learners, as we discussed earlier. Having teaching experience allows them to discern whether the resources available across the web is of acceptable high enough quality to be presented to a student. That involves not only what is colloquial and appropriate for each situation, used by the community, but also what is grammatically correct.

Are teachers with a degree a fit for every student?

Perhaps in theory, but not in real life because, like everyone else, teachers have their own likes and dislikes, hobbies and pet peeves. We are most likely to present the content in our own preferred way, using our preferred software, course book or opting for articles, exercises that follow our way to perceive the world. I will use myself as an example:

I prefer using Skype to Zoom on my online lessons, I complete despise the idea of possibly teaching using something like WhatsApp, for instance. I have worked with different book publishers, now I use Oxford for my English lessons. I enjoy talking about everyday topics, childhood, music, films, series, living away from home, language learning, arts and crafts. I hate talking about politics and economy, and I will never discuss religion. I have had lessons when the subject was business finances and investment, but I found it a challenge to have long meaningful conversations within that topic.

Do you remember when you were in school and you had that one teacher you detested? How much of what he/she taught do you still remember? It is important to get along well with your language teacher. Having a connection with your language teacher will allow you to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to question, practice and take advantage of everything they have to offer you.

Where should I look for a teacher?

There are so many websites offering to put you in contact with teachers. Some platforms allow you to keep in touch with your teacher, exchange messages and even have your online lessons directly from their platforms. Their service rarely comes free of charge, either for you or for the teacher.

Some of these websites charge you for exchanging contact details with your teacher. Others will not allow you to exchange contact details with your teacher and all communication should be through their platforms.

I personally believe you do not have to pay anyone to reach for an experienced reliable professional. Some many of them advertise freely on the web. All you need to know is how to find them on Google, and if you are worried about their references and whether they are DBS checked, just ask them.

Let’s say, for example, you are looking for a Portuguese teacher, simply type Portuguese language teacher or Portuguese lessons. Skip all these platforms we talked about earlier. You may finding a teacher’s blog or professional / profile website. Have a good look at what they have shared, experience, posts and all. Find them on Linkedin, then Facebook and/or Instagram.

You may find information about their work experience, methodology, their relationship with their students, and more. If you like their general profile, get in contact and request a trial. Some professionals offer free trials, others will charge a reduced fee. It is worth going through a trial before you agree to make a commitment.

Moral of the story

Both native speaker without teacher training and a professional teacher are going to be able to guide you through the adventure of learning a new language. What is going to change is how reliable their knowledge, experience and resources are. It will all depend on how you best learn and what you intend to achieve from your lessons.

Keep it in mind that all I have said here is my personal opinion, based on my teacher training and 16+ years of experience.

In in the future, we may start talking about online lessons versus in-person.

Let me know your thoughts on everything you have read.

Até mais!

Edna Allen


A message for Portuguese language students: If you are looking for a Brazilian Portuguese language teacher. Please get in contact using the contact form at the end of the page.

A message for teachers: If you are a language teacher and would like to have your name added to my list of professionals, to be recommended to prospectus student, fill in the Google Form (link below). I do not charge for it but I also do not guarantee I will be able to introduce you to a student. If a student is looking for a language teacher and you fit the profile, I may get in contact witn you.

Teacher's Registration form:

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