What to look for in a Spanish tutor:
The most important thing a Spanish tutor should have is extensive knowledge of Spanish grammar and not just the ability to speak Spanish. Think about it this way, you and all of your friends speak proper, or at least have the ability to speak proper English. However, how many of you could make a good English teacher or tutor to someone whose native language isn’t English? Maybe one or two of several, right? Just because someone is fluent in a language doesn’t mean they have the grammatical knowledge necessary in order to effectively teach that language.
A good Spanish tutor must be fluent in Spanish! You might be thinking, well if the tutor meets requirement number 1, which is to have extensive knowledge of Spanish grammar, then they must be fluent, too. However, this thinking is incorrect. The fact is, just because a Spanish tutor may know all the grammar rules of Spanish, doesn’t mean that he or she can process these rules simultaneously and at a fast enough pace to be considered fluent.
I, personally, can vouch for this! I was a Spanish expert, or so I thought. I was a Spanish major and in my 3rd year of college. I aced all of my Spanish tests and barely had time to study due to work and my other major, geology, which took up most of my study time. I was extremely excited to study abroad in Mexico and felt prepared to “show off” my mad Spanish skills. When I arrived, I was in shock! When my host mother spoke to me and very very slowly at that, tragically, I didn’t understand 75% of what she said. I was crushed. I knew that the knowledge was in my brain to understand her, but I just wasn’t able to process it fast enough. What it all boils down to is this: I was still translating from English to Spanish in my brain instead of thinking in Spanish, and in order for me to achieve the fluency I desired, I knew I must be able to think in Spanish and not just know Spanish.
Spanish fluency is vital since a student often asks the very important question, “How can I say this in Spanish?”, and the Spanish tutor must draw upon several grammar rules and vocabulary at once. This can be difficult or not even possible for a tutor who only has knowledge of Spanish grammar.
A good Spanish tutor must have a great Spanish accent and sound like a native Spanish speaker! Correct accents are essential when learning a foreign language. Therefore, having a tutor with a horrible Spanish accent will cripple your Spanish-speaking abilities. Haven’t you been on the phone with a non-native English speaker with a strong accent? It’s not the most enjoyable experience as we all know. Much effort must be put into the conversation just to communicate simple ideas.
All good Spanish tutors must possess the ability to teach. No matter how knowledgeable a tutor is in their subject, if they can’t transmit their knowledge in a manner in which the student can easily understand the material, they can’t make a good tutor.
Chances are if a student needs a Spanish tutor, the student’s interest level in Spanish probably isn’t too high. A good Spanish tutor must be able to motivate the student and teach them why the subject is important and relevant to their life. The Spanish tutor should be able to relate the Spanish language to the student.
A Spanish tutor must be patient. A good Spanish tutor will understand that the same concept may need to be explained several times before a students understands it. After all, most of the time it’s not the first time that the student has been exposed to the concept since the Spanish teacher or Spanish learning software have probably covered it already. Basically, a tutor must understand that they are a tutor and not a teacher. Teachers generally go over a new concept once, and twice if he or she considers it to be difficult. But a tutor must go over the same concept in multiple ways until the student has a good understanding.
A good Spanish tutor must of course be reliable. In order to be reliable a good tutor will have lessons prepared, will have read over the student’s work ahead of time if it’s available, will have extra learning resources available (i.e. Spanish/English dictionary, pencils, erasers, computer with internet, etc.), and most definitely be able to reliably meet the student’s needs. Now, I don’t expect that a good Spanish tutor will be able to meet all of the student’s needs on the spot, but I do expect them to be able to find a way to meet them in the near future. For example, I believe it’s perfectly acceptable for the tutor to say (every now and then), “I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll research it and have the answer to you by tomorrow,” or something along those lines.
We all know that the subjects we get tutored in aren’t our favorite by far and therefore, are more than likely on the boring side. That’s why a Spanish tutor must have a good sense of humor. Imagine, a boring (at least in the student’s eyes) subject coupled with a boring tutor. Not a good combo. It may be so horrible that the student decides to just fail or drop the course! This isn’t good for the tutor or the student.
A good Spanish tutor must vary their tutoring styles according to the way the student prefers to learn. You know you have a good tutor when the tutor starts the session like this, “How can I help you learn today?” instead of “This is what we are going to do today.” By asking how the student would like to be tutored, the tutor shows that which ever learning style works best for the student, is the learning style that will be used.
And last but not least, a good Spanish tutor will care about the success of the student in and out of the realm of Spanish.
You might have noticed that I didn’t include experience in the list of what to look for in a Spanish tutor. I believe that jobs requiring experience before the job seeker can even become a job candidate is in short, ridiculous. How many unknown talents must there be just because they couldn’t get their foot in the door due to zero years experience? By not allowing new, inexperienced workers in, unknown opportunities are missed unreached heights never reached.