Finding a Tutor in a Least Commonly Taught Language

Finding a tutor can be even in a more regularly taught language difficult. It is not only necessary to find someone who has the time and the flexibility to meet on regular basis, but on top of that you must find someone, of course, that is compatible with you, your personality and your form of communication, and someone who understands their role as a tutor. One of the most important characteristics a mentor should possess, is understanding your language needs, and understanding the target language should be the focus and no use of English should be happening during the meeting sections. Also, the mentor should understand they are a valuable learning tool and resource for the learner and as such, it should be clear the mentor should correct any mistake the learner makes. Every opportunity is a teaching opportunity. In exchange, the learner must understand that being corrected is the only way they can be aware of the mistakes and can then quickly fix them or at least understand what are the areas that need to be worked on.

For a least commonly taught language finding a tutor can be more complicated, especially if there are no speakers or fewer speakers of the target language.  One of the advices for finding a tutor is first to try to look for a tutor locally or around your area (Marshall 1989). If you are part of a university or a learning institution you can first contact people within this institution, emailing people that may know of someone that speaks this language or that may have other ideas of places that could be reach out. When finding a tutor in your target language is not possible a second option is reaching out to other places, such as the country where this language is spoken. It may be possible that someone would agree to meet your through video conference. Even though this is far from ideal, it may be the only opportunity to incorporate a tutor in your language-learning process. Even though a tutor at a distance is better than no tutor at all, we should be aware that not having a face-to-face tutor is not ideal. The book Becoming Fluentby Roberts and Kreuz (2016) explains in the chapter Hearing is Also Seeingwhy it is so essential to have a face-to-face tutor. Harry McGurk and John MacDonald published a paper on a phenomenon they found by chance, they called this phenomenon “the McGurk effect.” This is effect shows the influence that perception has over hearing. Basically, the experiment is a short video of a man who constantly repeats the same syllables 6 times. When you stare directly the man in the video seems to be saying “da da, da da, da da,” but when you close your eyes and continue to listen with the eyes closed, you start to hear something else. In fact, the guy in the video is saying “ba ba..,” bu the actual movement of the lips is “ga ga…” If your eyes are closed you cannot observe the mismatch, but if you are observing the guy in the video, the mismatch will cheat your brain into perceiving the guy saying “da da…” “You brain tells you that you are hearing “da da” because it’s the best perceptual; solution for the mismatch perceptual inputs” (Roberts and Kreuz 2016). Adult learners need a complete perceptual experience, and this includes vision.  I believe this is a very compelling case and we must consider the ideal is a face-to-face meeting whenever is possible for optimal learning.




Marshall, Terry

1989      The Whole World Guide to Language Learning. Intercultural Press Inc. pp.58-65


Roberts, R. and Roger Kreuz

2016     Becoming Fluent. How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn A

Foreign Language. The MIT Press. Massachusetts.



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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.