How to Choose The Right English Coach for You

selecting a person cartoon

Like many things in life, language learning is harder on your own. You need support, encouragement and direction to keep your English skills sharp and make sure they won't fade over time.

Teachers and tutors will act as someone at your side to help along your learning journey. They will help you improve your pronunciation and spot any mistakes (which people in the street won't). Most people don't think much about words - language comes naturally. Teachers and tutors are (usually) able to explain the most important question about language - why?

But which situation is right for you? Group classes or private? What kind of curriculum? You have a lot of questions to answer . . .


Before you select an English Coach: 

First, consider your goals and note of the following things:
  • What skills do you want to improve? Reading, writing, listening, speaking? Think about why.
  • What are the weakest aspects of your English? Fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammar? Be willing to work on your language black spots.
  • How much time can you dedicate? Be realistic about your study outside of class. Putting one hour a day in your diary for English activity is the best way to maximise the lessons you take. Check out my recommended study resources here.
  • What's your budget? It doesn't matter how often you take lessons, but how consistent you are. Even with one lesson every two weeks, a good tutor can guide your learning.
Another thing to consider is whether group classes or a private tutor will suit you best. Group classes have a lively dynamic and some students are more comfortable speaking with peers. However, group classes can lack personal focus as the teacher has to divide their time between class members. 

What kind of lessons do you like? Are you happier following a book-based curriculum? Do you have an exam to pass? Or do you prefer lessons tailored to your personal interests? Most of the students I've taught make greater progress when they really connect with the topics. After all, in real life we use language about things that really impact our lives.

Although they're not best for everyone, personal classes offer better value. Online tutors have lower overheads and can be much more flexible with how they teach. Everyone is different, right?


Working with an English Coach:

english writing coach working online

There are millions of apps, books, videos and methods to learn on your own. This approach is a good way to supplement your English learning, but eventually, you'll run out of steam. Think of online tutors as coaches, not teachers. You share responsibility for your improvement. Their job is to guide and motivate you, so you'll improve on your own. 

Private tutors adapt to the learning pace and techniques of the student. They have time to answer questions, plan individual lessons, to give written feedback and to cut out unnecessary content. 

Another benefit is there will be no pressure to perform well in front of other students. Remember, no questions are silly questions!

Overall, you can expect to feel like you are working with someone not against the English language. The input that tutors provide, should make you feel empowered, stronger, ready for anything.


The Best English Coach for You:

coach and student on book

Teacher or Undergraduate?
Students are often good at teaching younger pupils as they can identify with their learning journey and tend to be closer in age to their learners than many other tutors. On the other hand, teachers can better identify student weaknesses. They have more experience in giving honest feedback and understanding reactions to lesson content.

Native vs non-native speaker?
Quite frankly, non-native speakers are often better English teachers than native ones. They are more familiar with grammar and can understand the learner's requirements and journey. This is especially true with beginner and intermediate learners.

Native speakers excel in the following areas - deeper vocabulary, cultural explanation, pronunciation instruction, advanced learners. It's up to you to think carefully about what your needs are.

English for Specific Purposes:
Each tutor will have a speciality in addition to language instruction. English teachers have often worked in other fields, have talents or hobbies in common with students, academic subject knowledge, or even cultural expertise. For example, here are some of my specialities as a tutor:

Teaching Spanish language speakers
Literature analysis

Other factors:
Which 'coach' to pick should also depend on these factors - professionalism, dedication, motivation, and empathy. I personally don't wear a shirt and tie, but tutors should be reliable and take their job seriously. This is a 50/50 split in terms of learning. How important is it for you to have a high-energy dynamic motivating coach? Are you a someone who requires sensitive treatment and understanding from your teacher? Personality plays a big part in whether a tutor is a good fit.

To be honest, tutors are worth the value that the student sees. So, I recommend thinking about all these factors when researching tutors, not only looking at rates, bookings and reviews. There are many platforms to find tutors and teachers. 

I help international publishing professionals become proficient English writers, so they can gain independence and respect at work, while saving time. 

Remember to take your time finding a tutor. Ask questions, use trial lessons to make a decision, and make a plan together.


Tips to maintain a good relationship with your English coach

high five

When working with a tutor (especially online), it's a good idea to do the following:
  • Set clear ground rules - how will lessons work, what does the tutor expect of you?
  • Set attainable goals - create targets you can reach. Revisit them every few months.
  • Be honest - communicate with your teacher. What do you enjoy? What's more difficult? What do you want to change?
  • Keep notes - look at the class materials again. Revise.
  • Be consistent - make time for learning and tasks outside class. Make classes regular. It doesn't matter how frequent they are, stick to your timetable.
  • Don't be afraid of change - you are in charge of your learning. Keep developing in your lessons. Finding a new tutor can also be a valuable way to challenge yourself and improve.

Good luck in your search for the right English coach!