While in theory English can be learned on one’s own, one eventually has to interact with what they’ve learned. By far the best way to do this is to hire a tutor. Learning on one’s own has a Romanticism to it, but it’s also very easy to stay in your comfort zone. Along with learning nuances of the language like technical jargon or slang, hiring a person will ensure an accountability in your progress.
As with everything, the internet has made finding such a person simple. Given an laptop with up to date Skype functionality (or any other VoiP program), one can access a plethora of Skype English teachers. In navigating this new marketplace for your own mentor, there are multiple things to consider.
Native vs. Non native
How fluent of a tutor you choose to hire mostly depends on where you are in your education. If your are just learning the fundamentals of basic vocabulary and grammar, it’s probably fine (but not necessarily optimal) to hire a non native English speaker to guide you through this tier of education and theory. As you master the fundamentals however and learn conversation, you’ll begin to prefer a native English speaker. Whether it’s accent, slang or mannerisms, there are certain intangibles of any language that can only be picked up through exposure, not theory. Sites like SkypEnglish4U list native English speaking teachers from all over the world.
Frequently, online English tutors have specialized curriculum for certain niches. There tutors who teach business, medicine, science, poetry, and just about anything you can imagine. Considering your stage in your education (have you mastered the fundamentals?) and your English goals, you can use specialization as a useful filter to find your teacher.
Because of the language’s educational demands, you want your tutor to be someone you’re excited to meet with on a regular basis. While in the old educational system your selection was arbitrarily based on who your local school decided to hire (and to tenure), the online education market is a buyer’s market and there’s no longer a need to put up with lack of enthusiasm, dullness or rudeness. If you take the prerogative to find someone you get along with, you can build not just a mentorship for the long term, but a relationship.
What to Expect
A true one on one tutorship is the most personal form of education. Unlike twenty to thirty person classrooms (or more), it’s extremely difficult to hide one’s ignorance under the supervision of a tutor. ‘Failure’ is constant, but is the necessary fuel for progressing your education. This is something few of us are accustomed to.
Still, a personal and online teacher doesn’t guarantee fluency. If the student isn’t willing to be diligent with their work outside of the meetings, the lessons will simply drag on at a menial and wasteful pace. Learning a language demands is a daily practice that requires accountability–but is also what makes it so rewarding.