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What do lessons “Informal tutoring” really stand for on italki?

Is there any rule or any description of informal tutoring lesson? Or, it’s a kind of the teacher’s personal approach or style? Shall I ask each teacher before booking the lesson? Am I supposed to bring my studying materials to the class or can I ask tutors to prepare something for me? 

I have experienced different variations of it so far. What are yours experiences? If you are a teacher, what is your approach to that?

Mar 16, 2018 8:39 PM
Comments · 13

italki states that teachers are not expected to prepare for informal tutoring sessions. Most teachers understand it as a session in which a student practices conversation casually and brings questions or work for clarification and corrections. However, given the competition on italki, many teachers prepare topic questions, find materials online, and guide informal sessions far more than can reasonably expected. I like informal sessions to go with the flow, with maybe an article/book discussion to avoid repetition. It's very important to me that tutors focus on the flow of the conversation and that they be good at getting a feel for the student's level & style without a thousand questions.

When I offer informal tutoring, I expect the student to be conversational already OR a highly-motivated beginner who brings questions, written work for corrections, and doesn't expect a fully-structured professional lesson. I bring energy, interest, and happily correct students in writing if they want this during tutoring sessions but I don't work with students who book tutoring BUT expect a fully-guided grammar lesson, extras like homework corrections after class, and are unresponsive during conversation but say they "just want to practice speaking".

March 16, 2018
Community tutors are cheap and cool. They are ideal for advanced students.
But to make the most of the paid money, students have to take initiative to conduct conversations and provoke interactions. So, preparation!
March 16, 2018

My Understanding is that the community tutors don’t have formal training in the language and aren’t really language teachers. They tend to be native speakers available for casual conversation in the target language. So, to utilize their services you really should be at advanced fluency, and not needing instruction in grammar. You should expect the conversation to be conducted entirely in the target language.

The professional teachers, by comparison, normally charge quite a bit more, have degrees or certificates in teaching language and are best suited for true beginners who need structured lessons in grammar and explanation. Also, beginners need instruction in basic vocabulary. 

March 16, 2018
I tried a few informal tutoring sessions but ended up doing twice the work for half the money so I gave up!
March 17, 2018

 I tried to start a discussion on this topic by asking what made for a good tutor/teacher on Italki, but no one commented. So I guess that thread disappeared. But, this theme is still what I was getting at. Guyomar gave a good answer. If all you want is conversation, then the community tutors are perfect for that because, as she said, they don’t have to prepare a lesson plan. They are there to talk. But, you still need a discussion topic, and sooner or later you’ll run out of things to talk about unless the tutor is quite talented at guiding a discussion. A distinction I’ve noticed that differentiates the really outstanding teachers from the others is this:. There’s an old expression that says „Interesting people are interested.“ So, if the tutor shows an interest in the student’s life and who he or she is, that’s a real plus and conversation-generating point of departure. Further, and most importantly, the student wants feedback. They want to know how they are doing, if they are speaking well, and so on. Otherwise why would they be here? It would be like going on a diet but never weighing yourself. For a community tutor to ignore both of those matters is a guaranteed way of assuring they’re not going to be hearing from that student again. At university we had a book, or a novel we read and the professor guided the discussion in the target language with the discussion surrounding the novel. That can’t work here, but to overcome for the lack of a discussion topic, and the lack of grades, the community tutor owes it to the student to show an interest in him or her, be enthusiastic about teaching, guide a conversation and give the student a lot of feedback. 

March 17, 2018
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Language Skills
Czech, English, French, Russian, Slovak
Learning Language
English, French