You can try to do it on your own, but language learning will be more enjoyable and, most importantly, effective, when you have a teacher who is invested in your language journey. But with so many language teachers out there, how do you find the right one?
It’s certainly a process, but these guidelines will get you on the right track:
I’ve been providing student-centered methodology through the Diáfano Method for over a decade and can attest that it’s not only the best, but also the most fun way to learn the language. Listening to a teacher go on and on about grammar rules is not the way to learn. You can look up those rules online. What you need is a teacher who presents the topic, then leads you through a series of mechanical and associative exercises, and gets you talking as soon as possible. In an ideal student-centered environment, the student always talks more than the teacher. The teacher presents, models, and implements in order to build the foundation. The students’ then take these tools and apply them to conversation. The more the students’ confidence and skills grow, the more they speak, and the less the teacher speaks. Ideally, you should aim for a scenario where the student to teacher speaking ratio is 60 to 40 percent, or at least 50 each.
Language learning is both a financial and time investment. You can make more money, but you cannot make more time. An expert will provide you with the foundation necessary to learn, and can even provide you with a timeline when you will be learning those things by. Only an expert can provide expertise, save you time, provide effective structure, and get you on your feet and moving along quickly. Some things to look or ask for are: What is the teacher’s repertoire? Where do they teach? What is their methodology? What’s their success rate? If needed, could you speak to the students? Will they let you sit in a class? Do they have clips of past lessons that you could watch? And, if you are feeling ambitious: how long till you get started on the subjunctive mood? 😉
Ability to switch gears quickly
You are learning the simple past (finally!), but in the middle of your session, you realize you don’t remember the present perfect (I have been to the park today; I have studied a lot this week; My family and I have gone on a vacation this month). Can your teacher switch up the lesson and fill in those mental gaps for you? Are they able to go on a tangent and to pull unplanned activities from their sleeves to reinforce your skills? Can they handle that kind of pressure?
Invested in your journey
Are you just another student for the teacher or do they make you feel like you are a unique learner worthy of their time, skills, and patience? Are they just interested in making money or do they take the time to show you alternatives to facing your challenges? When a teacher is one-of-a-kind they take great care into the learning process of each of their students. They have consistently positive attitudes that week after week shows you they are in it for the long haul. They are patient, resilient, flexible, and easy-going. If they care, they will have your back, listen to your concerns, adjust lessons based on your learning style, and provide guidance and reassurance.
Builds your confidence
Your teacher is there to tell you, “Yes, you can.” The truth in that you can definitely learn the language. But if you think you can’t, then you can’t. The teacher’s job is to give you the right tools, and keep you focused on the goal. Language learning is a mental game, combined with practical approaches. If your teacher is not 100% behind you, then why have a teacher at all?