When you teach someone, both teacher and student benefit.
~ Chinese Proverb ~
One in six people in the world are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. As the official language of China, standard Mandarin Chinese is spoken in China, Taiwan and Singapore and is the language you want to learn if you are looking at forging an international business career.
There's no better time to start than the present.
Private Chinese lessons with a tutor can get you on the way to speaking fluently and comprehending the written characters.
Finding a Private Tutor of Chinese
In Australia, the study of Mandarin Chinese is still not as common as European languages or other Asian languages such as Japanese or Indonesian. However, it is gaining in popularity as people are coming to realise the career advantages of speaking Mandarin Chinese.
If you can't find the time to enrol in a formal Chinese language course, a private Chinese tutor may be the solution you need.
How do you go about finding a tutor?
Traditionally, if students were looking for tutors, they would regularly check student noticeboards at their local high school, university or public library. This method still works so don't discount it.
These days, though, you have many other online options, such as social media and Google searches. There is also a growing number of online tutoring platforms, like Superprof, that help you find and make contact with your selected private Chinese tutors.
Wherever you search, it's important you find out about the types of lessons they offer and the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, native speaker). Knowing their level of experience is also useful and, of course, their contact details.
The other method that is also highly recommended is 'word of mouth' because it comes with an inbuilt testimonial.
Finding the Right Tutor
You have to be sure you've selected the right tutor for you but how do you know before you even start your first Mandarin lesson?
Learning a language is difficult and you need to get on well with your tutor, trust them and above all, be inspired by them. After all, a tutor who isn't excited by the language and culture of China is hardly going to excite their students.
Before you start your search for a Mandarin tutor, you need to first be clear on exactly what you want and your reasons for deciding to learn Mandarin.
- Are my reasons for learning professional or personal?
- Do I want to learn about Chinese culture?
- Is grammar or specific vocabulary my focus?
- Do I only want speaking and listening practice?
- Do I need to learn the characters and get more experience reading and writing?
It may be that you are planning a trip to China and just want to learn a few simple greetings and phrases. Alternatively, you may need to build your communication skills for business meetings. A good tutor can help you achieve your goals, whatever they are.
Also ask yourself who you would feel more comfortable learning from. Tutors can be students themselves. They may be retired teachers. Or they may be native speakers of Chinese who are in Australia learning English. Think about whether you want a tutor who is:
- roughly the same age as you
- a qualified teacher
- a career tutor with a lot of tutoring experience
- a native English speaker
- a native speaker of Mandarin.
Once you're clear on what you want, remember to talk to any potential tutors before you engage them for lessons. Most Superprof tutors offer the first lesson for free so you can get to know each other and check if you are a good fit as tutor and student.
Finally, make sure you have a broad search — there are many places you can learn Mandarin and find a tutor.
Private Chinese Lessons — the Advantages
Not all students who engage tutors do so for academic help. Sometimes, you may just want to learn a new skill or develop a new hobby.
Lessons with a private Chinese tutor let you progress at your own pace. There are no worries about falling behind the other students or being held back. If you need to revise a grammar point or need some extra vocabulary, you just need to ask.
You also don't have to study topics or learn skills that you aren't interested in or don't need. For example, if you're only interested in informal, conversational speaking, you may not need to study all the formal grammar rules or the characters for writing. You choose what you want to learn — Chinese characters, speaking and listening, calligraphy writing, cooking, classical literature and reading — because these are your lessons.
The frequency and length of your lessons are decided by you and your Chinese tutor. Together, you can work out a lesson schedule that suits both of you.
Lastly, and perhaps of the most importance, is that your private Chinese tutor will be able to give you detailed personal feedback — much more than a teacher with a class full of students is able to do.
Being clear about what you want and knowing what you can expect will help you make the most of every lesson with your tutor.
What to Budget for Your Private Lessons
Cost is a very important factor to consider if you want to learn Mandarin via private lessons.
Unless you are able to go along to free conversation groups run by your local community association, you are going to need to pay to learn Mandarin Chinese, whether you enrol in a Chinese language school course, undertake a university degree or engage a private tutor.
Work out your budget. What can you afford to spend on your lessons and for how long?
There are a number of things that are factored in when private tutors set their fees, including:
- lesson preparation time
- travel costs (if you are having one-on-one lessons)
- internet charges and computer hardware costs (if you are taking online lessons)
- their level of experience, skills and qualifications
- the level of the students (tutors who work with advanced or intermediate level students often charge more than those who work with beginner level learners or children).
The average cost for Mandarin Chinese tutoring with a Superprof teacher in Australia is $31 an hour. If you want a Mandarin tutor based in Sydney, the cost is slightly higher at $33 an hour but less in Perth at $29 an hour. However, there are also private tutors who charge even less or a lot more than this. Do your research.
How to Get the Best Value for Your Money
When you first see the price of private tutoring, you might feel surprised — especially when you add up how many lessons you will need to achieve your goals. You may need to consider your learning style and weigh up if it's worth the extra cost to progress more quickly with private classes as opposed to slower progress (and lesson topics that may not be what you're interested in learning) at a language school or course.
Here are a few tips for maximising your lessons and ensuring value for money.
Your tutor wants to help you achieve your learning goals but they can't do this unless you talk to them about what you want and what is (and isn't) working for you in your class. Be honest if you don't understand a grammar point or feel your speaking and listening comprehension isn't improving. There's no such thing as a silly question.
Focus on your needs
There's nothing worse than 'learning' something you already know or have experience with. Make sure your tutor is aware of your skills, what you already know and what you need to know so they can structure each lesson and class around you.
Do your homework
Even the best tutors cannot help you improve your skills if you don't practise them in between classes. Ask your tutor for homework. Revise new vocabulary and grammar rules. Memorise a set number of characters. Practise forming sentences and using new grammar and vocabulary by writing in a journal each day.
Taking every opportunity to practise speaking and listening to Mandarin Chinese is the only way you are going to improve your skills and gain confidence.
Request your tutor speaks in Mandarin during your class, only using English when absolutely necessary.
Ask if you can dedicate a portion of each class to real-life speaking and listening practice — set a topic and have a conversation with your tutor.
If you can, find another student at a similar level to you and practise speaking together. Alternatively, find a native speaker who is learning English and organise a language exchange once a week.
Ultimately, organise a trip to China!
Immerse yourself in the culture
Have some fun and learn at the same time. Watch Chinese language films. Read Chinese books, comics or magazines. Listen to Chinese music. Everything contributes.
How Much Time is Needed to Master the Chinese Language?
This is the ultimate question and the answer is — nobody knows. What is known is that private lessons do produce faster results than if you have to study in a group situation, however, how long a student takes to learn new skills is an individual thing and is dependent on a number of factors, such as:
- frequency of lessons
- personal motivation (that is, do you take every opportunity you can to practise?)
- opportunities for immersion experience
- your ability to juggle your professional and personal responsibilities with your learning
- your learning style.
The most important thing is to not give up. Everything takes time. You will get there if speaking, reading or writing Mandarin Chinese is something you are passionate about.
Don't let a lack of tutors in your area put you off either because learning Mandarin Chinese online is always an option and a good one at that. Tutoring via Zoom or another online platform is just as good as face-to-face tutoring with today's online technology and there's the added bonus that it actually broadens your choice. Who knows, you may end up with a teacher or tutor who lives in China.
Why not consider combining your private tutoring lessons with other methods of learning Mandarin Chinese?
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