1. Before the lesson
Feel free to send a message to your tutor even before booking a lesson if you have a question about their lessons. If it’s just one or two quick questions, most tutors will be happy to give you a little more information.
Come prepared for counseling lessons. Have an idea about what/how you want to study or what your goals are, tell the tutor about them, and feel free to ask lots of questions. Take a look at the tutor’s lessons before the counseling lesson and think about which one(s) might be good for you. You can ask about the tutor’s materials or style of teaching. You can ask whether the tutor provides feedback. You can share your areas of difficulty and ask for advice. The more information you give, the more information your tutor can give!
2. During the lesson
Tell the tutor what your goals and interests are and what you want to focus on. For example, you could tell your tutor that you think your vocabulary is too formal and you want to learn more casual words and phrases. Then your tutor can focus on your vocabulary and suggest synonyms (words with similar meanings), phrasal verbs, or other useful casual vocabulary. Let your tutor know if you are open to a little homework or self-study. In that case, your tutor could recommend some follow-up practice that will help you to prepare for the next lesson.
Let your tutor know if you want feedback and correction during the lesson or after the lesson. Receiving a lot of corrections during the lesson can help with accuracy (you immediately become aware of mistakes and how to fix them), but it can also interrupt the ‘flow’ of your speaking in conversation lessons. If your focus is fluency (expressing your ideas freely and spontaneously), it might be better to focus on the conversation and receive feedback after the lesson.
Be curious and ask questions! Ask LOTS of questions! Anytime you’re unsure, can’t remember something, don’t understand something, or need more examples, don’t be afraid to just stop and ask a question. Make sure that you understand the lesson and make sure that you’re getting the information that you need. Even during a conversation lesson, feel free to ask lots of questions like ‘How do you say…?’, “How do you spell…?’, ‘How do you pronounce…?’, ‘What do you call…?’, and ‘What’s the difference between… and…?’ Asking questions will give your tutor more ideas about how to help you and you will ‘unlock’ more information!
Try to describe things that you don’t know. Don’t spend a long time trying to think of a specific word. Use other words to describe it. This is a useful strategy for all people because even in our own language there are words that we don’t know or can’t remember. Describing it might help you to remember or help your tutor to guess the word. Descriptive adjectives and relative clauses are very useful for describing things you don’t know. For example, if you don’t know the word ‘eggplant’, you can say ‘the soft purple vegetable’ or ‘the vegetable that’s soft and purple’.
3. After the lesson
Follow up in messages or on Skype. Most students don’t want to bother their tutors and many tutors don’t have time for long conversations, but a little follow-up small talk about something you discussed in a lesson or about a common interest is usually fine. Many tutors enjoy learning new things from their students or talking about their common interests, and this can be an opportunity for you to practice a little more and develop your relationship. After a lesson recently, one of my students sent me a message to explain 仏壇 and I really appreciated her effort to explain it in English.
Well, that was a lot of information! If you read everything, congratulations and thank you! I hope this will help you to get more out of your language lessons!