When is it time to change your Chinese teacher?

“Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuffed with facts.”

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross.”

There are dozens of sayings and quotations about how important a teacher’s role is. To meet a knowledgeable, professional instructor is a touch of great luck! It’s little wonder students are so happy to be guided by a good teacher, and so disappointed when they have to part ways with one.

“A good teacher is like a candle”

Your teacher is the one responsible for guiding your learning progress, and a good one adjusts their lesson plans to your personal needs and progress.

If you’ve been learning with the same teacher for months (or years!), the two of you have probably developed very efficient communication. You understand each other well, and the teacher knows your background and interests – put in another way, you’re on the same wavelength.

Establishing such good communication is definitely an important achievement, but in language learning, it can actually have some negative side effects. Your teacher might get used to your pronunciation, and vice versa, which might affect the acquisition of new skills, or your ability to understand someone other than your teacher. Online schools often try to position themselves as flexible and ready to adapt to their students’ needs – but what if a student doesn’t understand what he or she actually needs?

When is it time to change teachers (or switch schools)?

When your goals change.

Say you started to learn Chinese just to be able to handle everyday situations. Thus, your primary goal was to develop good listening and speaking skills in order to communicate. However, if now, you need to go overseas to work, and need to pass the HSK test, it might be a better idea to instead concentrate on reading skills and enriching your business vocabulary.

2

When you’ve grown up.

Teaching methods often vary depending on a student’s age. Some teachers are stronger at working with younger learners, while others are better at dealing with adult students. If you feel like you’ve outgrown your teacher’s teaching style, it might be necessary to look for a new one.

When you need to challenge yourself.

Physical growth is not the only reason to find a new instructor. When you’ve been learning the language for a long time, it may be necessary to put yourself out of your comfort zone in order to jump to the next level. Instead of working with a teacher you are used to learning from, and that has stopped challenging you, it might be wise to look for another teacher that would cause you to look at things from a different angle. Doing so, you might just find the kind of knowledge you were looking for.

When you need to boost your listening skills.

The most quickly noticeable results in language learning are normally one’s listening and pronunciation skills. As previously mentioned, you may be used to your current teacher’s pronunciation, which hinders your ability to develop in this area. Similarly, your teacher might have learned how you pronounce certain sounds, and might understand you even when other native speakers might not. A new teacher, though, might help you reveal and improve those weaknesses.

3

When you want to benefit from technical progress.

One of the best reasons to switch a school is if it ends up saving you time and energy. If you’ve only previously studied in an offline school, it’s time for you to try learning with the web. There are dozens of online schools where you can get lessons with professional native speakers, such as TouchChinese, ChineseTime School, and others.  Furthermore, a good language learning community can be an excellent source of support: check out italki or Verbling!

4

Most online schools or tutors can provide classes via Skype, QQ or WeChat. However, there are more innovative approaches as well; some online schools offer lessons on their own web platform. This might mean that you not only communicate with a teacher, but also have access to videos and other content. For example, it might be possible for you to record the video of a lesson and save it on your computer, or save a lesson as a text file on your computer for later access

During a Skype lesson, you might find yourself needing extra tools. This is especially necessary if you would like to practice writing Chinese characters. To accomplish this, a good resource is Twiddla, or a similar “sandbox” website where you can write and your teacher can correct any mistakes. HanBridge Mandarin, for one, provides this via their built-in e-whiteboard, which might mean you don’t need a 3rd party website at all! These might seem to be minor things, but they really matter and can greatly enhance or detract from your language learning.

5

When you can’t take regular classes anymore

Time matters, too. Regular classes have many advantages but if you don’t have enough time, you can always try instant tutoring. With instant tutoring, offered by italki or services like OkyTalk, you can connect with a teacher who is available at this particular time of day and practice immediately!

Useful Tips

  • Be sure to thank your current teacher for the time and efforts he or she has put into training you.
  • Ask your current teacher for advice on what your strengths and weaknesses are.
  • List your learning goals.
  • Inform your new teacher what you have already known (as much detailed as possible): be sure to include information about textbooks and other resources you used as well as about grammar points and vocabulary you are already familiar with.
  • Describe your typical lesson with your previous teacher and what you liked and disliked in it.
  • Be honest and open.

Oksana Ermolaeva

Oxana Ermolaeva is a freelance writer, editor and translator from Russia. She loves studying new languages and cultures. Her special interest is Chinese language. She owns a page on Facebook and a website about learning Chinese. Now she is also running a channel Hacking Chinese Characters at Dig Mandarin.