Tips for Speaking with your Language Mentor:
- Practical Tips:
- Prepare your goals ahead of time. Before having a meeting with your language mentor, have in mind a few things that you want to get out of each meeting. They could be the same as the one before or different. However, you want to come in with a sense of what it is that you’re seeking in terms of their feedback.
- Be prepare to change. At the same time as you want to come in with certain tasks in mind, make sure that you are open to change. A lot of the time, you might have some principal tasks, but at the end of the day, your language mentor is going to be guiding things. If you meet in a social environment, you will also quickly recognize that things will move at a pace that you might not be able to control. Don’t try to force things, and try to take advantages of openings for your learning, even as you stick to your goals.
- Be curious and ask questions. Along with the idea of being open to change is asking questions. The best way for you to learn is to ask as many questions as you can. There are things that your language mentors will share with you that it will be difficult to learn from a textbook. This is most especially true for cultural context and other background information that they might want to impart. Make sure to take the time to ask about any small thing you don’t understand. This will help you to again see the language not as formulaic, but within a rich frame that your mentor will help provide you with.
- Bring a notebook. A notebook of some sort will be your best friend, especially for your language mentor meetings. You want to make sure that while you’re practicing, drilling, running scenarios, etc. that you’re taking as many notes as you can. Note where things are difficult or where you feel that you’re making improvement. Try to write down the cultural context or other parts of stories if you can. These are going to help to support your learning and development of other activities down the road.
- Develop a Pronunciation Guide. This one is a little bit trickier, but for languages that have unclear or different pronunciation marks than what you’re used to, try to come up with a clear and consistent pronunciation guide or shorthand that you can use in your language mentor meetings. Note which parts of words you’re struggling with, and make sure that you find a way to write down the correct pronunciation. This can also be done by recording and re-listening. However, if you note it as well, it can improve written skills.
- Remember Repetition. Repetition is your biggest friend with your language mentor. There will often be times when your mentor wants to go back to things that you have gone over before. That is okay. If they want to move too quickly, and you still have questions about things you’ve already learned, remember to go back to them and work on them more. Remember that you are helping to guide the pace of the entire program. However, repetition is always your friend, because this is going to be one of the best things that you can do with your mentor. Make sure that you also remember that your mentor is going to be the best source for working on things like pronunciation.
- Be Open to Criticism. Critique is going to be a central part of your relationship with your language mentor, because they are going to be providing you with a lot of feedback. Their feedback is essential for your progress–remember that the feedback is part of the bedrock of your program. One thing that you can do is to work with your language mentor on the form of feedback that you want to receive, based on your language learning style. However, recognize that although you will often be making progress, you want to take time to work through feedback that is both from yourself and from your mentor.
- Stay in your Language! One thing that might happen if your mentor speaks English is that they will want to switch into English (or your first language). However, try to find a happy medium where they don’t always switch into English for all the explanations that they give you. It is important that you learn incidental words in the language that you are learning. For example, try to have a point of comprehension where you perhaps ask them to switch into your shared language (not the language being learned). But before that, try to keep up a level of encouragement where, even during explanations, your mentor can use circumlocutions or other methods to explain to you what certain things mean. This will greatly aid your language learning.
- Fun Tips:
- Meet in Social Settings. Although your sessions are often for structured language learning, one thing that can be nice is to meet in a social space. Meet for some food, meet to have a juice, something like this. If you are in a social setting as well, often times other people might be interested in helping to explain things to you. This can help to structure your language learning, and you can even work on more subjects. At the same time too, often times having different kinds of people in the room alongside your main language instructor can help to take pressure off your language learning. Recognize, however, that there are some limits to this too, such as too many opinions at once.
- Play Games. Games of various kinds can make language learning fun. Remember to laugh, even as your working on something difficult. These games can be a way to break the ice and keep your language learning fun and engaging for you. Use things such as role playing and other types of trivia games that can help to break up the monotony of drills and written homework. If you have a good relationship with your language mentor, these types of games can be fun and can also be a nice way to help cement your relationship together.
- Change Things Up. You don’t need to always meet at the same time or in the same place. If you, as mentioned in a previous tip, meet in a social space, try to make sure that you’re going to different places. This might be a different restaurant, at a different time of day, or doing something different. This will allow you not to localize your knowledge. Sometimes if you’re learning a language, keeping things too regimented can impact and set back your research. This is why you need to use your language in real time.