I want to preface this article by emphasising that looking through an online Chinese tutor’s profile will only give you a glimpse of how good a Chinese language teacher is. Some things can only be learned by experiencing a lesson. This is why most individual people or institutes will offer the first Chinese lesson free. My advice is to first understand the criteria you’re going to judge an online Chinese tutor on (the contents of this article) and then pick your favourite two or three tutors. After that, book a free trial lesson online with each of them. Only then can you confidently decide who is the right Chinese online tutor for you. This will make sure your money is going to the correct person. First things first, let’s look at what a Chinese language teacher gives you that self-study resources cannot.
On grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary mistakes.
Insight into where you are "talking like a foreigner".
Develop and practice natural communication skills.
Discover and learn the language you naturally want to express.
It’s much quicker to understand new language concepts when introduced by a good teacher vs a textbook or app.
When interacting with a Chinese tutor it is a very 3 dimensional experience. You are training multiple skills at once.
When learning via a good Chinese language teacher you have less opportunity to pick up bad habits that you will have to spend time unlearning later.
Using these as a starting point, the criteria for a good teacher can be broken down into: Online Chinese Tutor Skills, Tutor Personality, and Language Tutor Knowledge.
Let’s look at these more deeply.
Online Chinese Tutor Skills
Will they correct you consistently when you make mistakes?
Will they offer advice on how you could say things more naturally?
Is Chinese the main language being spoken? It should be.
Are they talking at a speed you can understand?
Are they using language tailored to your level of understanding?
Are the topics you’re discussing interesting and relevant to you?
Do they help you understand new concepts concisely?
Does the lesson progress at a challenging, but comfortable pace?
When they use English to explain anything like complex grammar, do you understand? I.e. Is there English good enough?
Do you progress faster with your tutor than through other language learning methods? You should.
It’s good to be thinking about whether you get on with your online tutor and if you like them as a person. There are some other traits that a good tutor has: - Endless patience with you. - Visible passion for the language and teaching. - The ability to keep you engaged. - Leave you with the feeling that you can’t wait for the next lesson. - Makes you feel connected to the language more deeply.
Language Tutor Knowledge
"Language Tutor Knowledge", I would define as the things which separate a tutor from an ordinary person. What have they studied that makes them a better Chinese language teacher? How do they apply their knowledge of teaching and the language in a way that helps you learn?
How well does the tutor know the language?
Can they give you a direct response to a question like: "What’s the difference between 有兴趣 (yǒuxìngqù, interesting) and 感兴趣 (gǎnxìngqù, to be interested in)?" At the very least, will they say "I’ll find these out for you and tell you next time!"? Do they have a standard Mandarin accent? For many Chinese tutors, this is something that has to be learned, as their mother tongue is a dialect from their home town. Are the lessons structured? Not only throughout a single lesson but across a week or a month. Is language being repeated? Is revision incorporated into class? Are the lessons tailored to your level and needs? Have you discussed the reasons why you're learning Chinese with your tutor and have they adapted the lessons based on this?
Choose Your online Chinese tutor
Keep these points in mind during your trial lesson and you’re guaranteed to find an online Chinese tutor that not only suits you but increases the efficiency, momentum and accuracy of your Chinese learning. If you’re currently looking for a tutor, feel free to have a look at Ella’s tutor profile. She’s the brain behind our Chinese video lessons at Fragrant Mandarin. Read on here: