Individual English tuition - Interview with our English tutor, Emma

Our course participants often take individual English tuition in London, Canterbury or online. We asked our trainer Emma to answer several questions about these individual English classes to help those of you who are considering taking them.

Here are the answers from Emma about Individual English tuition.

Hi Emma, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your experience of teaching English?

Well, I started teaching English a long time ago, over 15 years ago. I was living in Spain at the time and I taught at various schools in Granada, then I moved to London and I started working for the London School of English. I also work as a therapist, for two different London charities.

What kind of students do you have in your individual English lessons?

I teach people from all over the world; from Spain, Italy, France, Brazil, Japan, China, Russia, Norway, Argentina... They vary in age from about 20 to 60 and they come from a variety of different backgrounds... some are students, some are business people, some are on a sabbatical, and others are aiming to get promoted. Some people are here just for fun and because this is something that they’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also taught doctors, lawyers, actors, psychologists, journalists, diplomats, a member of a foreign royal family and you know, many other people from  different walks of life. Their goals are generally to learn something specific, like, for example, they need help with becoming more fluent, improving their listening skills, their vocabulary and grammar, or they want to practise specific situations for work such as speaking on the telephone in English, negotiating, making presentations and participating in business meetings. Some people want to learn English for travel, some of them want to improve because they have a job interview coming up or maybe they need to improve because their company’s just been taken over by an English speaking company... . Others just want to come over and see London and have a great experience. A lot of my students need help with confidence building and individual English tuition allows them to develop the confidence they need to go back out into the world.

Why would someone want to take individual English tuition when there are group English courses which they can participate in?

Well, individual tuition gives people a chance to get a lot of attention paid to their individual language needs and it allows them to learn faster and practise more. I always think that a combination English course of group classes in the morning, for example, with individual tuition in the afternoon is a good option because you can get the best of both worlds. You can get the dynamic of a group class where you can learn with other people and meet people of different cultures and nationalities and you can get the dynamic of the one to one lessons which is more intense and where you can perhaps get faster results. 

Our clients are sometimes apprehensive about taking individual tuition classes because they think that they cannot influence the programme. Is that so?

No, it’s the total opposite actually. Individual tuition is very open, very flexible, it totally depends on the needs and on the objectives of the course participant. The timetable can be completely designed according to your needs and agreed upon by the trainer and the course participant.  In my classes for example, I plan the course around what my clients tell me that they would like to do and if they want to go around London, for example and for me to show them areas of interest and for them to practise their English in a natural environment then that’s fine too. Obviously, it depends on the two people involved but generally it’s very open, very fluid. Alternatively, someone might want to focus very much on practising specific situations which they might encounter at work or in everyday life, in which case we’ll work on those situations together until they feel more prepared and more confident to go at it alone.

What questions do English language learners need to ask themselves if they are considering taking a course of individual tuition?

I guess they have to ask themselves if they are willing to work hard with a trainer in order to meet their objectives and if they are willing to take responsibility for their learning. I feel that my role is about giving them the tools they need to become more successful in whatever they want to do and it’s then up to them to use what I’ve given them. I suppose they should also ask themselves if they’d enjoy the one to one dynamic and if they have specific goals or requirements in mind which might not be met in a group class. In individual tuition, the focus is very much on you, which can be very useful, if you’re willing to put in the work and use the time well. It is also a professional working relationship between two people from different cultural backgrounds, so that is also something to bear in mind. It can be very stimulating and enriching for both student and trainer.

Can you tell us a story about your experience as an individual English tuition trainer that was particularly memorable?

I’ve met lots and lots of people from around the world and have been lucky enough to learn about them and their lives... One recent experience was with a student from France who needed to pass an English exam in order to start his new job. He started off quite shy and didn’t say much and then after three weeks of individual tuition he had improved a great deal and really come out of his shell.  We’ve since become friends and when I was on the train to France going to a friend’s wedding this summer, he surprised me and my friend by meeting us on the train, speaking to the train manager in French and, I don’t know what he said but he managed to get us upgraded to first class! He’s told me that he loved individual tuition because it gave him a chance to visit London with a native speaker and develop the confidence he needed for his job. He described it as one of the best times of his life!!!

What do students say about their experiences of individual tuition?

They generally say that it goes too fast. They say that it’s demanding but very useful because they get to see their mistakes and how they can improve. My students tell me that they practise a lot of what they have learnt when they go back to work or when they go on their business trips.  Another comment I’ve had is that the classes are very friendly and very practical and it feels like a safe place where they can make mistakes and tell me about you know, their difficulties with the language. For many people, it’s the first time that a native speaker has given them honest and practical advice on how to improve and really listened and analysed their objectives and language needs.  

What are your top tips for learning English?

I always say to my students: study hard and practise practise practise! There is no magic wand or magic formula, it really is about focus and dedication and hard work and you know, we’re lucky living in the age of the internet because there are so many good resources online for learning English and for practising but I always say that as well as learning online, you always need a real person who you can practise fluency with, somebody who will correct you if you make a mistake. Listening to the corrections, comments or advice your trainer gives you and really taking this on board and trying to work on it, I think is also really important. Patience is another big one. A lot of people lack patience, they want to learn and they want to learn now! But learning takes time and you need to remain focused for a relatively long period of time if you want to improve, but everyone can improve if they put the work in.

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