Why Choosing a Great Language Teacher Matters

From Aristotle to Oscar Wilde, great thinkers and writers have shared their views about teaching and learning forever. Gaining new knowledge is a lifelong process, so it is no wonder that it keeps the philosophers pondering.

Learning a language, however, can be doubly as fascinating and complicated. Language is a living breathing organism, constantly evolving with nuances that can sometimes catch out even native speakers. There are many reasons for learning a new language; necessity, business, music, films, travelling, and love, to name a few. Speaking more than one language can really be life-altering.

Whatever your reason, you probably like the learning process to be as easy and enjoyable as possible. And this is something that a well-chosen teacher can help with. In the words of William Arthur Ward:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

A Teacher Can Keep Your Motivation High

Learning a new language is not just about syntax, semantics, or the ability to order a train ticket, read a menu or ask for directions. The motivation for learning a new language varies by student.

Understanding these motivators and setting stretching yet achievable goals is one of the primary objectives for a teacher to support their students’ learning outcomes and maintain high levels of engagement. This might seem fairly obvious and easy to do. However, asking students to describe what success might look and feel like can prove challenging and often highlights the discrepancy between expectations and reality.

The important part here is that you should pick a teacher who instills a love for learning in you. Understanding your needs and goals is an important criterion, and keeping you motivated through the tiring process of learning a foreign language is one of the signs of a great teacher.

Teaching is All About You

For many students learning a foreign language includes immersing themselves in the cultural history of a country where their target language is spoken. A great teacher can use this background to translate the student’s primary motivators into educational activities. Tying language learning to specific cultural significance can really help memorise vocabulary and make sense of the language itself.

Before you start any lessons, you should first focus on yourself – figure out what you’re trying to achieve and set more-or-less specific goals. Then meet with your teacher and agree on how to best work towards achieving your objectives. Remember that the more info you can give your teacher, the better they can help you with your language learning process.

A great teacher will include “modes of learning style” that best suit you. They will adapt and personalise their teaching style and lessons to fit your learning strengths, forming the basis to create fun, engaging and memorable classes.

Providing Cultural Insight

Taking a holistic approach to learning a new language supports deepening context and understanding. How you conduct business in Japan varies enormously to the approach taken in The UK. Simply knowing how to speak fluently will not be enough if culturally you break every local business rule. In Germany for example, losing your “handy” means something completely different to not being “handy” in The UK.

Likewise, the rules of dating in Peru might be light years away from the approach taken in Israel. Understanding nuances of a language in such a personal setting can mean the difference between creating a lifelong friendship or wearing the drink you bought at the bar all the way home! Awareness of the business or social environment around you has a significant impact on what you say and how you say it.

This is another area that sets mediocre teachers apart from great ones. There is a difference between teaching formal (and sometimes useless) niceties from a textbook and providing real insight into a culture. Look out for real life examples and understanding of local customs in your teacher to see if they really know what they’re teaching.

Conclusion – A Great Teacher Can Do More Than Teach

Learning a new language opens up a host of possibilities. Whether it’s moving abroad, creating business connections, falling in love with another country or someone from that country! The experience is transformational and it takes a great teacher to make that journey a pleasant one.

To quote Nelson Mandela,

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

This post was written by Jack M – our English teacher in Amsterdam.