How much does a student need to know before starting classes with a native?

Benny Lewis inspired me when I started speaking Spanish to jump right in and start with a native from day one. I followed this advice for Chinese also. Steve Kauffman, another famous polyglot, disagrees. What is your view?

Jan 7, 2016 8:20 AM
Comments · 7

I agree and disagree with both! There's no right method for everybody but there's a right method for an individual. 


There are people that simply wouldn't have a good result if they started this " speak from day one " method by Benny Lewis, actually I didn't follow his attempts but I did with his girlfriend's and it was something I'd never, ever do. She started learning Russian and tried to do what her boyfriend preaches and I remember that she said that first she studied some stuff before speaking with a native (so she didn't follow 100%) then in her first attempt to speak with one of the tutors here on Italki, she was constantly writing full sentences on google translate to talk to the teacher. BIG FAIL in my opinion! 


But on the other hand, there are people that can handle this method pretty well. I have students that come to me and want to do Benny Lewis' method and some of them fail completely and others succeed, it will all depend on an individual's capability. 

January 8, 2016

I started Spanish four months ago with 5 different tutors/teachers with varying levels of English (all had some, from basic to totally fluent). It wasn't until last week that I had a session with someone who was NOT a native speaker. When I went to a local meetup group, people were shocked at how far along I was after just 4 months but the reason is because I was having 5 hours of tutoring a week and doing a TON on my own. 

However, I recently had a session with a native English speaker and we are going to work on some pronuciation that I think will be extremely useful because unless the native teacher is trained in speech I think it would hard for a native speaker of any language to not just understand what's hard about pronuciation coming from English but more importantly how to fix it, because they never went through that. But I've had about 50 hours with native speakers and just 1 with the non-native English speaker, so clearly I'm positive about native teachers. It was really refreshing to work with the non-native teacher though and share a bit about the language learning experience, as he is from the US like I am. 

In the end, I think it comes down to finding the right teachers, personality and approach-wise, rather than if they are native or not. 

January 8, 2016

I must say that I wasn't thinking about having lessons with a native person, but about only having conversations when I answered your question. Sorry about my wrong answer.

January 7, 2016

I believe in arming yourself with at least basic sentence structure (more likely in the present tense) and a basic word bank of your target language in order to express pleasantries, where you live, what you do etc.   to have a fruitful exchange with a native speaker.   Otherwise the experience may be more frustrating than helpful which can be discouraging to the student.


On the other hand I am all for speaking out loud be it in a class with your fellow learners, to yourself, to your pet dog etc or reading, singing out loud in your target language from day 1. This will in my opinion reinforce learning vocabulary and grammar while building your self confidence. 

January 8, 2016

Wasn't your fault, Gloria. My question was poorly worded. I meant starting right away taking classes on Italki with a native. 

January 7, 2016
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