In this article, I will give you some advice that will help you to have a better session with your tutor, and I will also inform you of some misconceptions about tutors.
Annoy your tutor
A good student is always an uncomfortable one. This means you have to push your tutor with very good questions, and he/she must be happy to give you answers. Personally, I did not like school because sometimes they just make you memorize a lot of unnecessary information. That is why I used to be the most awkward student of my class. I really enjoyed seeing my teachers sweat because of my questions, even though I already knew the answers. Some tutors are just expecting you to listen without asking questions, but you have to be able to ask as many good questions as the time session allows you.
Ask your tutor for correction without mercy
Some tutors just do not want to make you feel bad. A good tutor is not going to have mercy. Languages are changing. Every day new information is created, and it means you are never going to know everything. Learning languages is like training at the gym. If you quit because you think you are good, you will lose your fitness level.
That is why you need someone to tell you when you are doing something wrong. You can be good, but you can always be better. I used to let my students talk while I took down their mistakes and told them at the end of their sentences. Try making pauses between sentences when you speak to allow your tutor to correct your mistakes. If your tutor does not correct you at all, it is because he/she does not care about your progress.
A tutor is just a tutor
A tutor is only a person. He/she cannot teach you everything. You need to put forth an effort by yourself. Nobody can just insert knowledge into your mind, but a good tutor can give you some tools and teach you how to use them.
Think of images
You always have to ask, “Why?” As native speakers, we understand words immediately, but your tutor has to be able to let you know what is coming to his mind when he is listening to a word. Why? Because the human brain has been programmed to think in images, not letters. For example, the Spanish word entablar means “to build something using tablas” or “starting a conversation.” When I hear this word, the first thing that comes to my mind is a construction worker building a wooden house.
You are going to remember it more if you have an etymological explanation of the word and have the same thoughts come to mind as a native speaker. Do not get frustrated when something has no logic or just does not make any sense. We need to understand that languages have a spontaneous order to them. Therefore, all rules have exceptions.
Ask for homework
There is nothing more pleasant than a good student, and a good student always does his homework. Your tutor has to be able to design good homework for you.
Ask him/her for honest feedback. The best thing to know is the truth. Ask your tutor for specific feedback about exactly what you need to improve. The more specific the feedback, the better it is.
Take a test under the supervision of your tutor
This is a very good exercise. You will practice your knowledge and your tutor will tell you what your mistakes are and how to correct them. You can find plenty of free tests online.
Record the session
Ask your tutor to record the session using one of several programs available online. I usually send my students a pdf and an mp3 file of the session so they can listen again to anything they do not remember.
Watch videos and talk about them
Sometimes you do not understand what a native speaker is saying in your favorite TV show. This is when you need the help of your tutor.
By following these suggestions, you are going to use your tutor to his/her full potential. I hope you can use these tips to achieve your goals and be successful when learning languages.
Hero Image by Chung Ho Leung (CC BY-ND 2.0)