New Chinese tutor

March 03, 2011, 04:50 PM posted in General Discussion

Hello everyone,

I am looking for some suggestions. I recently found a Chinese tutor as an additional resource to my studying efforts. Although she is willing to help me, she has no experience teaching Chinese to foreigners, and really doesn't offer much more than a Chinese speaking warm body to bore with my practicing. Anyhow, this means that I am going to have to find a way to make best use of my time with her. Does anyone have experience with using a tutor with Chinesepod lessons or other resources? I would like suggestions as to how I could use my study time with her to best help me in my learning. I can read and write comparatively good, but my speaking and listening is poor. Normally, for people living in China, it is the other way around. In my case, I am a bit shy. I don't normally want to talk to people, but I do spend lots of time studying Chinese characters and stuff.

Thanks in advance.


Profile picture
March 04, 2011, 09:35 AM

I suppose it depends a little on whether she is a paid tutor or a friend just helping you out?

Also how much study time do you have with her per week/day?

Anyway, my advice for what it is worth would be to not structure things too much if speaking and listening is the goal. If everything is planned out too much, you will always be listening out for what you expect or have planned to come next and will find it harder to develop the spontaneity needed to actually use the language in real world situations. I would say just tell her the focus is on speaking and listening then dive in at the deep end with Chinese only communication. Plan loose themes for you meetings like going shopping together, playing a board game, or even role playing.

Good luck with it anyway. I am sure someone will be along soon with some good advice ;)

Profile picture
March 04, 2011, 10:55 AM

Yeah if you're just friends or something, just go hang out. I learned way way way more chinese by just doing everyday things than pure book grinding. You should use your off time to look up new words to express things you don't know how to say and suppliment your "tutoring" instead of the other way around. If she speaks english start off by asking her how to say things you want to know how to say in English.


Some other good hints are things I did and really helped me:

When riding in cabs talk to the cab drivers. If they aren't speaking a local dialect, they will always want to talk to you and you can practice introducing yourself and letting the conversation flow to something else organically. Plus the rides are usually short enough that you don't feel trapped when you run out of words.

Find a restaraunt/cafe you really like that have friendly waitstaff. Become a regular and talk with them, learn everything you can about dining and ordering food. Get comfortable speaking.

Find a good massage place, legitimate mind you, but if you wanna hit up the pink light girls, i'm sure they wouldn't mind listening to your chinese :). But find a place that does foot massages and talk to the waitstaff there. You're stuck together for a good hour or more, it's pretty cheap. They love to talk and you can pretty much ask them anything.

Lastly, just find a Chinese girlfriend, but it only really works if you're Chinese is better than her English. Otherwise she'll pretty much only want to speak English. It's really the best way to learn, unless you get a really close group of Chinese guys you can go drinking with. Then you'll learn tons of slang, which is awesome, but doesn't work so well in polite conversation.

Profile picture
March 05, 2011, 01:33 AM

In this case, I am paying her a small amount of money to help me. We meet twice a week for an hour and a half each time.


Profile picture
March 05, 2011, 04:29 AM

the tutoring sessions are difficult. I know that I just started, but I know that I need to continue to work at it. She has the patience of Job... I can tell she stuggles to understand me, and she never seems to get irritated.

I looked at her schedule, and she has a full load. She must really need the money because despite her heavy load, we still meet three times per week for 1.5 hours each.

Profile picture
March 10, 2011, 01:45 PM

I have met with her four time so far, and it is definitely getting better! I have quickly improved even such a short time. Thanks for the tips!

Profile picture
March 10, 2011, 02:07 PM

I'm similar in that my reading/writing abilities are greater than my speaking/listening abilities. Here is what my teacher does with me... maybe you can set the curriculum?

Review last week's vocabulary.

Using a magazine, she finds common words that would be useful in many contexts. She tells me the word, shows me the characters and tells me the definition (sometimes she makes me guess.) Then she makes an example sentence, and I make an example sentence.

Grammar time (can't touch this...) She has a great Chinese grammar book and chooses three patterns to teach me. We both do example sentences. (Maybe you could use cpod conversations for your grammar patterns?)

Reading. I read out of a children's book with no pinyin. I answer her questions about what I just read. Questions and answers are in Chinese. She just does this to make me feel better about myself after the torture of grammar time.

Pictures! Using pictures in the children's book or magazine, I have to explain in Chinese what is happening. If I happen to tell a good story in Chinese that week we don't always do this part.

Listening. She reads a conversation or passage and I answer her questions about what she read. I'm not allowed to see the characters so I have to understand by listening... heehee.

My homework (self-assigned) is to rewrite my vocab and grammar notes to be pretty and organized, and to make flashcards to review while riding the bus/ditie.

I think it is a very good routine. Hope this gives you some ideas!

Profile picture
April 12, 2011, 01:35 AM

I am still meeting with her, but it has really turned into a very informal situation. Perhaps it is too informal? Im not sure. Now we are really only doing conversation, but I use other methods to learn the other things. I wish I could find a real teacher to really help me improve quickly.

Profile picture

I noticed the annoying thing about trying to speak Chinese in China if you're a shy person is that the situations that are free/cheap, like going out to eat, or just talking with people on the street, tended to more unstructured and intense. The things that have been structured and very helpful (going to one of the local language schools) tend to be expensive and less intense, less pressure. I feel for you. Hang in there.