What does "teaching" mean? Can language exchange be "teaching"?

There are many users posting messages like "Teach me English" (or any other language), which then leads to teachers and tutors posting comments like "I'd be happy to help you. Please check out my schedule." But in fact the user was looking for free language exchange. And honestly speaking: I regard repeated generic and promotional messages by teachers as spam. 

Then there are also users who say that they can "teach" their language in exchange for another language. I just wonder what they mean by "teaching". Just because someone is a native speaker, doesn't mean that they can "teach" their language. Can they really explain the grammar in detail? Can they produce a detailed and structured study plan for their language exchange partner? Can they create exercises?

Even though I'm a professional language teacher, I'd never offer to teach a language for language exchange and I would also not expect an exchange partner to be a free teacher. I regard language exchange as conversational or written practice. Yes, you can ask your partner questions but they can't substitute for a professional teacher. When I study a language without a teacher, I'm my own teacher and the language exchange partner just lets me practice and gives me feedback.

What's your take on this? 

Apr 22, 2019 11:06 AM
Comments · 22

This casual bartering of "teaching" often triggers an annoyed reaction in me as well, and I'm not even a teacher here. I try to take it on as an opportunity to practice patience and even compassion. Often these messages are written in English by people with limited command of the language. Teach, exchange, converse, help, message, befriend, it's all in the same basket. 

And then there's the problem of attention. For many of us, minds flit as quickly as fingers across countless apps and exchanges in the course of a day. More, better, faster. Something's gotta give. There is a trade-off between speed and precision. Even for the people who are engaged in this discussion, people who are interested enough to consider the distinctions, there is time and mental energy involved and no promise of arriving at any definitive answer. Philosophy is out of fashion. Quick results are in demand. smb help!

April 22, 2019
This is an interesting question. Can language exchange be "teaching"?
 First of all, there are some very experienced learners who are better than some teachers here, and do a language exchange with them is real luck. I had language partners like this so I know they exist. I want to remind that some well-known polyglots were members of italki and did language exchange here. Somebody was lucky to do a language exchange with them.
On the other hand, most teachers and tutors here do not offer real teaching. They don't create a personal study program for a student, they don't have any program at all. And I can understand them because the prices here are comparably low, and they just don't want to spend much time to prepare for the lessons. Others probably just not professional enough. But it is another problem.
    About all these discussions with a request for 'teaching'. I am sure most of them are fails. But their existence in discussion board inspire other students with hope to have a teacher without paying, so more and more students already ask not for language exchange, but just for teaching for free. It is just garbage in the discussion board, these people leave the site very soon as they will realize that they fail in their hope.
April 22, 2019
Teaching is assisting another person to obtain knowlege you have.
Language exchange is teaching.

April 22, 2019

It's true that in general passing on knowledge in one way or another is teaching. It's just difficult for me to differentiate what is meant by professional language teaching and just passing on knowledge. I don't think that users who say "I can teach you" are lying, not at all, but using the word "teach" just leads to a lot of misunderstandings. Whenever users write "I need somebody to teach me X language" teachers offers their services while the students were just looking for language exchange. And I think that I have just different expectations when somebody tells me that they can teach me a language. I then expect that they know the grammar and the subtleties of that said language. And have an idea where to start and how to help a non-native to progress. I think I have to overthink my own definition.

Thanks a lot for all those insightful comments! :)

April 22, 2019
I agree with you. Language exchange is not the same as teaching. I see teaching as a kind of mentorship. A good teacher doesn’t just teach you the content; they guide you on the path from where you are to where you want or need to be. Teaching is a skill in and of itself. Knowing the skill that is taught (speaking a language, playing an instrument, etc.) is not enough to make a good teacher. 
April 22, 2019
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), French, German
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin)