From February 1st italki will be holding a New Year Language Challenge. This is simply just a matter of getting badges for completing a certain number of hours of lessons in the month. It’s a great way to motivate yourself to study more with a teacher if you struggle with motivation.
You don’t have to take the ‘challenge’ but it had me thinking about Japanese teachers.
I’ve had a few Japanese teachers through italki over the years and had mixed experiences. Never anything bad but there have been times when I’ve not gotten what I wanted and left lessons frustrating.
So how do you get the most out of your Japanese teacher? How do you get what you want from private lessons?
This focuses on italki but most of these can be applied to other one-on-one Japanese teachers.
(Probably not so handy for group classes which have set structures.)
Before You Get a Teacher
The first thing you should think to yourself is: What do I want to achieve? What do I want from a Japanese teacher?
Work on speaking? Reading skills? Do you want them to help you go through a textbook like Genki?
If you want to improve vocabulary or kanji you could request 10 minutes of the lesson be a vocabulary/kanji test.
(I would suggest avoid spending the whole lesson drilling vocabulary with your teacher. Some of the most frustrating lessons I’ve had have been where the teacher just explains vocabulary. And it’s been words I’ve already known!)
Once you know what you want from your teacher it’s time to research which teachers would be the best for you.
Each teacher is different and will have different specialties which are worth investigating.
Remember: Expensive does not mean better, and cheap does not mean worse.
You want to find someone with experience and specialization in the area you’re interested in. Like the example above has a teacher that helps with 就職 (しゅうしょく – finding work) and ビジネス会話 (business conversation), as well as 日常（daily conversation) 大阪弁（おおさかべん – Osaka dialect).
It’s worth setting up some trial lessons with a couple of teachers you think you’ll like. Then talk to them about what you want and see who’s a good match for you.
Make it clear to them what you want from them. This will help both of you structure the lessons so you both know what to expect.
Once You Have a Teacher
Once you know what you want and you’ve chosen your teacher to work with you should make sure you get the most out of each lesson.
The first few lessons will be a little wobbly as you get used to each other. But once you get comfortable you’ll begin to notice what you like and what you don’t like from each lesson.
italki lets you leave feedback and I’d take full advantage of it.
Don’t ever be mean or rude when you leave feedback. I suggest leaving creative criticism such as:
“Thank you for the lesson! I really liked ____, could we do that again next time?” or “In the next lesson can we try 20 minutes of ____?”
There’s one more thing. If you don’t think it’s working with a teacher, don’t be afraid to find someone new.
Sometimes a teacher just isn’t working out for you. They might be incredibly kind but don’t push you. If they don’t work for you then that’s just not a good match, and that happens.
Simple politely explain that it’s not working out but thank them for all the time they’ve spent on you.
Working with a Japanese teacher can be a great experience and really boost your Japanese!
The best way to get a boost is to know what you want from a teacher. Find a specialist. And give clear communication to get satisfactory lessons every time!
If you don’t have an italki account and are interested in joining you can get $10 free with this referral link,: