After years of butchering a few foreign languages, I've developed a keen ear for them. I can't necessarily understand what people are saying, but if someone is speaking in one of the languages I can get by in, I can hear it across the room.
An older man and a younger Japanese woman were sitting in the corner of Samovar, the tea place I go to every day. And, sure enough, they were speaking Japanese. They seemed like an unlikely couple, so I paid attention and eavesdropped a bit. When the woman excused herself for a minute I dove in for some answers.
"Excuse me... I couldn't help but overhear that you were speaking Japanese. Are you being tutored?"
He was. Interest piqued, I got his tutor's email address and scheduled my first tutoring session for the following week.
The problem with learning Japanese is that you inevitably learn the polite version of it. As strange as it sounds to us English speakers, words are actually conjugated completely differently depending on how formal you intend them to be. The differences are significant: "aru" and "arimasu" mean the same thing, but the latter is more formal than the former.
Every course I've ever found, audio or classroom, teaches you only the formal conjugations. Everyone will understand you, and won't be offended, but you'll have a tough time understanding movies or casual conversation.
At my first tutoring session I told my teacher exactly what I wanted to learn. I wanted to be able to speak casually, understand casual conversation, and have excellent pronunciation. No problem, she said.
My first session was intense. Unlike a class where you can avoid being called on, the pressure was constantly on. Every mistake I made was noticed and corrected. My teacher was really good at telling when I could absorb more information and when I was getting overwhelmed.
I panicked for a minute when she motioned to wrap up the lesson. It felt like we'd only been working for half an hour -- had I done so poorly that she didn't want to teach me anymore? I checked my watch and was astonished to see that we had filled the entire hour and a half. The time had flown by, which is a lot more than I can say for any class I've ever taken in school.
The amount I'd learned in just one meeting was at least as much as I'd learned in two weeks in school. There was no busy work, no waiting, and no being slowed down or rushed ahead by other classmates. Subsequent lessons have been the same. In just four or five lessons I've learned a ton of Japanese.
Why isn't everyone getting tutors? Why didn't I think of this a long time ago?
If I get a lesson every week, at thirty five dollars a lesson, I'll spend $1820 per year for a fully customized individual Japanese class. That's cheaper than it would cost to take the class at college, and far better. I learn exactly what I want to, and I don't even have to commute-- she comes to Samovar to teach me. She even brings worksheets and gives me homework.
I plan on getting tutors for more things. Maybe drawing. Maybe 3D modeling. Maybe Chinese. Maybe dancing. Maybe rapping! If that's not education outside the box, I don't know what is.
My suggestion to you: think of something you want to learn. Maybe it's a language, maybe it's web design, maybe it's banjo playing. Look on craigslist for a tutor and take one lesson. Not every tutor is a good one, but with a couple interviews I bet you can find someone who will blow you away.
The best way of learning is through practice, practice, and more practice. This can be done through homework assignments, or in-class practice sessions. This post is really nice.
I never realized how important this was until I got older. As a youngster I went to piano lessons every week for 7 years. I was an ass kicker on the keys. Then I stopped and spent too much time caring about playing sports. I can still play, but it's nothing like It used to be. Never let things you're good at go completely to waste.
I have tried this, and I can absolutely echo the feeling of time flying by, even when it feels like you're moving painfully slow. You can push yourself so much farther and faster with a tutor instead of a professor.
So glad I heard this much about tutors! I'm just getting one when she arrives from japan I will start learning japanese 30 dollars a week to! And one hour a week.I am so glad I'm learning japanese! She is also going to teach me all the symbols of kanji and hiragana and katakana. Go tutors!
I'm hoping to get a tutor to learn some Mongolian before I head over there for a project. Thankfully, I live in an area of the US that has the highest concentration of them!
Tynan, I know you are a bigger picture guy, but it would be cool if you could write an article on how you improve your efficiency/productivity at the computer. Obviously the most important things are motivation, persistence and concentration, but after that, there seem to be tips and tricks. For example, using a mouse instead of a track pad. Having two monitors. Free programs to monitor your output, etc.
Excellent post! Tutors are so underrated because people don't seem to like asking for help. We all think we should be able to learn things on our own, even foreign languages we know nothing about! It's pretty silly when you think about it.
In Nicaragua taking my third week (since the beginning of the trip) of intensive 1 on 1 spanish classes (5 hours per day for less than $100 per week). If you have the opportunity to travel to a country and stay for an undetermined amount of time, you can certainly find the best teachers for the best price and get a ton of practice out of it.
Yeah, tutors are great.
I put off getting one for Japanese for a couple years, but in the end i caved. They're great for motivation and discipline, if that's what you're lacking.
Really though, in my experience, they should only be a way to keep you on track. The majority of your learning, in my opinion, should come from two things. Firstly, media in your target language - like listening to and translating Japanese rappers like RIP SLYME.
And secondly, and this shouldn't be hard for you, conversing with native Japanese speakers. Wherever I go there seems to be a budding Japanese community, and someone like yourself should have no problems penetrating one. Although there are all sorts of online schemes if that doesn't work.
is a great site for all this.
I've spent most of my time in San Francisco since fleeing the oppressive summer heat of Texas. Since then, mostly thanks to awesome recommendations from other people, I've discovered some amazing places here. This is a selection of my favorites... all of which should be checked out by anyone who lives here. Know somewhere else amazing? Let me know!
Samovar Tea Lounge
If you like tea you should come to Samovar. If you love tea, you'll probably end up coming here every day like I do. Samovar does tea like tea is meant to be done: large servings of loose leaf tea, steeped for the exact right time in the exact right temperature water. The lounges are very pleasant comfortable places, and the employees are awesome people. There are three locations; I like the Page Street one the best.
Adult Night at the Exploratorium
Córdoba, Argentina is a great place to study Spanish.
The city is home to 7 undergrad universities so in many ways studying is what this city is all about.
When you decide to study Spanish you could opt to go to one of the Spanish schools here in Córdoba. Here is information on three 3 popular schools.