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Finding a good Chinese tutor is key if you want to learn the Chinese language correctly and in an effective way, but how do you know if your tutor is the right one for you? Use the following checklist as a guide:
1. Customized to Your Needs
Find a proper Mandarin tutor according to your learning needs. If you are interested in learning Chinese for daily communications, then you will need to find an outgoing, talkative Chinese tutor. First and foremost, he or she should be a native Chinese person. And he or she should be up-to-date on recent news, new trends, buzzwords, songs, movies, and so on, which are popular in China. With his or her understanding of what’s new and popular, he or she can better help you learn about the typical daily life in China and Chinese culture.
If your goal is to learn Business Chinese, then you will be better off learning with an experienced, professional Chinese tutor. He or she will be able to teach you about industry specific terminology as well as Chinese business etiquette, like exchanging business cards, handshakes, greeting others, etc.
2. No Accent
What you should learn is Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin, so make sure your Chinese tutor who does not have an accent. Usually, people from southern China have more pronounced accents than northerners. For instance, people from Hunan Province tend to mispronounce the “n” and “l” sounds.
Whereas the word “男 (nán),” meaning “male,” is pronounced “nán” in standard Chinese, a Chinese speaker with an accent might mispronounce it as “lán,” which actually means “蓝 (nán),” “the color blue.” Learning Mandarin with a tutor who doesn’t have an accent will prevent you from picking up a local accent, and it will help you master correct pronunciation and tones.
Learning a language is tough work and it can take a long time to be truly fluent in it. Based on this, a good Mandarin tutor shouldn’t rush you and should always encourage you to try again, to explain yourself in other words, and to employ newly-learned language. For students who can’t master a given language point, such as the pronunciation of a certain Chinese word, a Chinese sentence structure, and so on, the tutor should give extra examples and more tailored exercises to practice.
4. Various Teaching methods
Look for a Mandarin tutor who mixes it up with a variety of visual, audial, and contextual activities. Every student learns in different ways. Perhaps you are the kind of person who needs to see something to remember or make sense of it, or maybe you learn best by writing it down a few times. No matter your learning style, your Mandarin tutor should employ a number of ways to get the learning point across.
There are four main aspects of Chinese learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. While one activity may make use of flash cards, the next could focus on listening and repeating, and the following might be a real-life-scenario role play. To be more specific, listening to short dialogues and watching the news is helpful for your listening.
For speaking, talking about a topic or retelling a story is useful. You can read story books or a novel with pinyin at the beginning to improve your Chinese reading. For writing, start from pictographs, which are stylized drawings of the words they represent. You can also use pictures to help.
Let’s take the Chinese character “大 (dà),” meaning “big,” as an example. Imagine that a man gestures how big an object is. Image that the man in the picture is a fisherman who is showing us how big the fish was that he caught yesterday. Visualizing this resemblance to the character “大 (dà)” can help you remember the meaning and how to write it in the future.
5. Fun and enjoyable
It is said that good teachers make class interesting; however, it sometimes goes that studying is not so enjoyable. Maybe you can recall a class that was so boring that you wanted to fall asleep while the teacher was talking.
Since the instructor is the key to an enjoyable class, it’s important to find a Mandarin tutor who makes class engaging and interesting. For example, when teaching a young Chinese learner, a good tutor should incorporate games, songs, and interactive activities into the class.
Because young Chinese learners are interested in games, songs, and activities, with these kinds of activities they won’t get bored and will be happy to participate. While having fun, they learn the Chinese language without even realizing it. The teacher could do this by teaching a Chinese nursery song, like “两只老虎 (Liǎng zhī lǎohŭ) Two Tigers” or “小白兔乖乖 (Xiăobáitù guāiguai) Little rabbit”, or a game like “The Hand Game-Rock-Paper-Scissors.” The best thing about these songs and games is that they contain simple Chinese words which kids can easily pick up while they are singing and playing.
For adult Chinese learners, a good tutor should draw on real life scenarios, current events, and, yes, fun activities, which keep the brain active. For example, the Chinese tutor can bring up a topic about recently released movies like “港囧 (gǎng jiǒng) Lost in Hong Kong” or some current hit songs like “小苹果 (xiǎo píngguǒ) Little Apple.” Students can share their opinions after watching a movie, while learning to express themselves using the words they have learned. Learning via Chinese songs and movies can help students learn not only the Chinese language, but also Chinese culture.
6. Target Problem Areas
Can the teacher identify your problem areas and guide you through them? Find out with these guidance.
As a language learner, you depend on your teacher’s skills and expertise to identify your weaknesses and help you learn the right language in a way that makes sense to you. For example, a Chinese learner might have problems correctly pronouncing the tones. The right Mandarin tutor will spot this and incorporate extra pronunciation and listening practice into the lesson to target your weak area.
A lot of Chinese learners have trouble pronouncing the consonants “zh” properly, so they tend to mispronounce words like “只 (zhī),” “着 (zhe),” and “中 (zhōng).” A good Chinese tutor will know that there is a way to help practice this sound: start with the “j” sound, as in “jeep,” then end smoothly with the “r” sound. The first 2 sounds in the following example demonstrate this same pronunciation.
7. Culture Differences
A good Mandarin tutor should know the cultural differences between the learners’ home environment and China, plus be able to help the student get to know more about dos and don’ts in Chinese culture.
For example, never give a clock to your Chinese friend, as clock “钟 (zhōng)” has the same pronunciation as death “终 (zhōng).” To elaborate on their similarities, “送钟 (sòng zhōng)” means to give a clock as a present and “送终 (sòngzhōng)” means to attend a funeral. “4” is an unlucky number in Chinese culture as “四 (sì)” sounds like “死 (sǐ),” which means “death.” For more taboos, you can check out this article: Top 7 Taboos in China.
One final question you may have is, “Where can I find a Mandarin tutor?” If you prefer a tutor who can meet with you in person, you could call your local university to see if they can make any recommendations. Another option is to post a wanted ad in the paper or online. However, the downside of these options is that your schedule may not suit your potential tutor and vice versa. Also, you should make sure to talk to references to confirm the tutor’s teaching experience and standard accent.
Another option you might want to consider is online learning through a reputable Chinese learning school. With this method, you can set the class time, you can learn from any place that is convenient for you, and you can rest assured that the instructor is qualified, experience, and native with a standard Chinese accent. eChineseLearning is an online Chinese school with a variety of convenient, tailored course options worth considering.
Where to Find a Good Chinese Tutor?
If you would like to find a great Chinese teacher, someone who is accessible whenever it’s convenient for you and who can tutor you whenever you have a question, you could consider looking for an Online Chinese Tutor. These days learning Chinese online is a very popular and convenient way to study, because no matter if you live in America, Singapore, Japan, or Hong Kong, you can find a native, highly experienced teacher without having to go to China to study!
There are many different types of online Chinese teachers, for instance, those who teach larger classes and those who teach one-on-one lessons are both very common. We recommend that if you have enough time to plan ahead of time, that you find a one-on-one Chinese teacher because it is the most effective method. You could also consider trying out one of our free one-on-one lessons here, where you can personally experience what it is like to be tutored by our greatly experienced teachers!
There are also some students who are looking to find teachers where they live in order to attend a Chinese class. Our recommendation is that you look into the nearby Chinese schools (or if there are schools that provide a Chinese class, usually those that have been established for a long time provide more experienced teachers) where looking for an outstanding teacher should be much easier.
As you are looking for a school at which to study Chinese, you can also search the internet to find a list of schools and look for the top schools on the list. Another option is to ask a friend who has studied Chinese and see if they can give you a recommendation. Finding someone with the personal experience of attending the class is a great way to get a recommendation that suits you!
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