I’m a qualified teacher of EFL and also teach Russian and beginner German.
I’ve jotted down some answers here:
Calling all language tutors: do you have any advice for those looking to prepare exciting, helpful and engaging content for their language lessons?
How do your lessons differ based on the varying skill levels, goals, personality types, ages etc of your students?
All of my lessons are tailored towards the student’s needs (generally, studying for a particular exam). If not exam-based, then I’ll try to use or create authentic materials that the student can relate to or has an interest in – especially for adult learners who are not always well-served by existing textbooks. I’ll use a variety of materials (though I do quite like making my own too). As my language work is quite oriented towards lexical (vocabulary) development I will create exercises based on the actual vocabulary that the student has encountered or has brought to the lesson. Some of my students enjoy a word game, or writing in response to a picture. For younger students, activities should be kept shorter and if there is a larger task to work towards (e.g. a piece of writing) this can be broken down into manageable chunks and we can use things like writing ‘frames’ (model sentences) to help build on their ideas.
How do you correct mistakes in an encouraging way and without making it sound like criticism?
You can do this by ‘repeating, but re-phrased’, or make suggestions for how something could be phrased more naturally -language learners often struggle with producing natural-sounding language, which is not the same as grammatically correct/incorrect. At advanced level, I am aware that it can be a bit demoralising to have ‘mistakes’, but many of these are to do with students needing to develop their knowledge of collocation (natural patterns and combinations of words). You can use intonation and tone of voice to suggest that a student has made an error, however some mistakes can be glossed over if the aim of the exercise is fluency. The most difficult errors to correct are what we call ‘fossilized’ errors; ones that have not been consistently corrected over a long period of time and potentially the learner is unaware of!
Do you tend to do a little listening, reading writing and speaking in each lesson, or do you prefer to focus on one skill at a time?
This really depends on what the learner is working towards. Generally I prefer learners to do extended writing in their own time and submit to me for feedback- however I do sometimes add in mini timed writing exercises.
How do you bring a shy or nervous student out of their shell?
I always try to ask my students about their interests and hobbies, how their week has been, or their opinion about something in general. Show that you can also make mistakes and be natural. Make sure they have the option of taking a short break and always check if they have any questions throughout. The main thing is that they feel comfortable working with me.
For languages that have a different alphabet - do you believe it’s essential to learn the alphabet before learning to speak the language?
I think that you can do a limited amount in a language just verbally, but for any extended study of a language it is best (I would say essential) to use their reading and writing system. Transliteration does not usually provide a good model for pronunciation, especially as English language and transcription is not strictly phonetic, unlike a system such as the International Phonetic Alphabet. Learning a new alphabet is really much easier than people think. I know four non-Latin alphabets. It’s part of the fun of learning a new language!
Do you correct mistakes as you go along, or do you provide feedback and corrections at the end of the class?
Usually this is best done ‘in context’, i.e. as you go along, although there might be occasions (such as oral exam preparation, or student presentation where fluency is the objective) where this could provided at the end.