It’s a curious thing: you probably don’t remember any of your mediocre teachers. People tend to remember the good ones (gratefully) and the horrible ones (in their nightmares). In language learning, teachers not only need to teach you about their subject, but also serve as a model for how to use the knowledge – somebody to communicate with. Choosing your teacher wisely can make or break your study – fortunately, there are ways of knowing what kind of teacher you need, and how to get one. Read on to find them out!
1. The Guide
This kind of teacher is probably the most common – maybe because what this role involves is similar to “regular” classroom teaching. A Guide will lead you to the most interesting areas of language, show you a way through the difficult areas and, hopefully, will steer you away from problems.
Advantages: A very thorough teaching role, ensuring that you get the information and material you need.
Disadvantages: May become unbearable for students with lots of initiative, who don’t like to be led.
How to spot one: Lots of board work, frequent language / grammar presentations. Listen out for “let me explain / show you.”
How to bring out the Guide in your teacher: “I think I might have a problem with this. Can we go through it together, step by step?”
2. The Sherpa
This role is inspired by a member of the people living in Nepal and Himalayas. They were famous for their mountaineering skill, and have frequently assisted well-known climbers. In language training, a Sherpa-like teacher will ensure that all preparatory work is done, and that problems are solved – but will let you do the work and take the credit for what you have actually learned.
Advantages: More learner freedom than the previous role. A Sherpa is an expert who lets you explore language on your own.
Disadvantages: This kind of teacher can come across as reserved and aloof – maybe not optimal for people who require lots of explanation or assistance.
How to spot one: “I’ve prepared that one for you. See what you can do with it.” Also, this teacher will ask more leading questions than the Guide.
How to bring out the Sherpa in your teacher: “I think I got it. Let me try, and help me when I mess up, OK?”
3. The Enabler
It is extremely difficult nowadays to find the “single best thing.” This is also true for language learning resources. The Enabler’s strongest point is exactly that: this teacher will go to great lengths to find, create or point out the resources you require to progress in your language. It could be anything – from an emailed article to a CD collection found on the flea market: the Enabler will make sure you never run out of the stuff you need to learn your language better.
Advantages: usually an Enabler is a very creative and energetic personality. Also, the lessons are never boring!
Disadvantages: with an Enabler, your lessons are in danger of turning into a constant stream of new resources, with not a lot of authentic language use.
How to spot one: look out for the ones with big files, and those who email you stuff between lessons.
How to bring out the Enabler in your teacher: “I was wondering if you could find some reading material on X for me?” (be specific!)
4. The Jedi
This teacher is a rarity, especially when it comes to language learning. A lot like Star Wars’ Yoda, a Jedi teacher is a mix of all the above teaching styles: inspiring you at times, tormenting with impossible tasks on another occasion. The best thing about a Jedi: they seem to know when you need an extra push and when to cut you some slack – when you can do it yourself, and when you need help.
Advantages: your learning will feel more like an adventure and even a self-discovery journey. Also, with a Jedi, chances are you will learn much more effectively, since they’ve taken the time to discover your learning styles.
Disadvantages: you can’t fake being a language-teaching Jedi, and teachers who try to fake it usually end up losing their learners’ respect.
How to spot one: Look out for someone who knows what mistake you’ll make, even before you make it – and doesn’t criticise you for making it!
How to bring out the Jedi in your teacher: Don’t rush it. Tell them how you learn, let them watch you fail – and hope for the best!
Needless to say, there are a lot more language teaching roles than the ones I’ve just listed. Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments!
You are here to read and learn. I'm here to write!
My three e-books are available for you to download.
I update them every year with bonus chapters, so you always get the latest info.
They all cost less than a fancy coffee. If you don't like them, you get your money back within 45 days.
And if you do like them, you will help me help my favourite charity, and motivate me to write more!
Get the bundle here.