Interview with Hunadda: language
tutor, teacher ...and learner!
Hunadda has taught languages for 6 years, both online and in person. She loves learning new languages and is currently studying Bosnian in her spare time!
Hi! Tell me a bit about your experience as a language teacher
I have tutored a variety of languages for 6 years now. Since starting out as a part time private tutor whilst I was still at school, I have taught English, French and Spanish to children, teenagers and adults of a range of abilities.
My students have wanted to learn languages for different reasons. For example, I have taught adults who want to gain some conversational knowledge before going on holiday, but also guided younger students through official school exams, which is a totally different experience.
I have taught one to one, in person and online using skype. In terms of group sessions, I have led classes of 3 up to 12 people at an international summer school.
How important is interaction with other learners when learning languages?
Interaction is very important because there are so many aspects to language learning (comprehension, listening, writing), and many different ways for students to approach these. By interacting with other learners of a similar level, you can learn from someone else’s way of learning and enhance your own skills.
I find this is the case with my students, but also from my own experience learning languages. I am currently part of a group of six studying beginner’s Bosnian and I learn a lot from my fellow students.
What are the key differences between teaching a group and teaching one-to-one?
I would say the main difference is to do with energy levels: both required energy levels and the energy you get from your students.
When teaching a group, as a teacher you must bring a lot of energy to the lesson as there is a lot more going on, and more possibilities for distraction. Therefore, it becomes more important to have constant variety in lessons, keeping everyone on the ball. It’s really important for me that everyone is involved all the time, and there isn’t a moment when someone in the group isn’t taking part. I see it a lot like a performance.
The flip side of this is that you get a lot of energy back. This makes teaching groups a lot of fun!
In one-one-one classes, we tend to move through content more quickly as it’s much easier for a single student to catch on quickly. Here, concentration becomes more important, and you have to ensure you are always there for your student: present and patient.
On the other hand, it can be more challenging to allow enough thinking time for students in a group. I achieve this by changing up the tempo in my classes and introducing a variety of exercises: some full group exercises and other times when I offer one-to-one attention instead.
Do you prefer teaching groups or one-to-one? Why?
I prefer different aspects of each.
In group lessons, I love the energy I get from students - the fun, laughter, and the interactions students have with each other. And as a teacher, you can learn new things!
On the other hand, one to one can be incredibly rewarding when you build a close relationship with your student.
One top tip?
Before I started teaching groups of students, it would have helped me a lot if someone told me how important it is to be able to adapt in a classroom. You can prepare all you want but there are many dynamics that can change during the lesson so it is important to react to the vibe of the classroom - especially in a group where you are reacting to lots of people at once.
One favourite moment?
I will share a favourite moment from group teaching, and one from my one to one.
Group: When I was teaching English to a class of ten teenagers, I got them to do an activity where they asked the person next to them to describe a food they eat in their home country.
This worked really well as the class was quite multicultural and the kids loved finding out about each other’s culture!
Tutoring: During a three hour one-to-one English session with an Italian teenager learning English, I decided to make our class more fun by disguising the teaching as a conversation about football.
Instead of going straight into our grammar work, we spent a while talking about the important terminology for describing football games in English, and he even taught me the equivalents in Italian.
Interview by Irini Koulovasilopoulos, Tutor Training Consultant at Chatterbox. Find Irini on LinkedIn.