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Opinion for online chinese tutors


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I live in a very small city in the US and really have no opportunity to learn Chinese from a native. I'd move to a big city if I could, but that is out of the question for another two years due to a recent career move.

(For give the detail below, I'm just trying to spell out what my ideal course would be like)

I'm looking at signing up for a for-hire Mandarin tutor via the Internet, but I'm a bit nervous about it. I'm an experienced language learner, Mandarin is my third, and I know better what helps me learn these days. I know my strengths and weaknesses, but having sat in regular language classes for Chinese before (in Tokyo), I grew bored of repeating the same old introductory dialogs. My reading/grammar is far above my speaking and listening skills, and the goal I have would be to read advanced materials (essays, articles, etc) outside of class, and then discuss the articles. Even better would be to write an assignment based on the reading material, and have that corrected too. I might not be able to start at this level, but after getting comfortable with speaking, I'd like to make a jump like this.

I've looked at a few and the rates are quite reasonable. Has anyone tried working with a for-hire online Mandarin tutor? If so:

- what service/site did you use?

- were you able to control the direction of your learning, or was it rather dictated by the teacher and/or institution?

- how did you measure your progress?

- did you have any problems due to timezone and schedules?

- any other suggestions or ideas for success?

Thank you for your ideas and opinions.

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eChineseLearning is what I usually recommend. You can tell them what texts you want to use and what you want to learn. If you have evenings, weekends, early mornings free in the US then timezone is not a big problem.

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Since July I've been doing weekly Skype lessons with a tutor in Beijing and I'm quite happy with the progress I've made. In some ways, it's a lot better than a local tutor since you don't have to leave the house (it's minus 7 celsius today in my town).

There are occasional problems with Skype cutting in and out but the technology mostly works quite well.

I found my tutor using italki.com. The site itself isn't all that great but at least you can do free sample classes with the tutors till you find one you like. As it happened I only tried the one teacher and it seemed to fit what I needed.

If you're interested in trying my tutor, send me a private message and I'll give you her email.

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There are a lot of different companies out there doing this. I don't have any personal experience with hiring a tutor online, but as far as working with a Chinese tutor in general, here are some things to consider.

Tutor or Language Exchange?

A tutor would be a lot better because you're paying them to teach you Chinese. As such, you can "be the boss" and tell them what you need and what to do. This is preferable 9 times out of 10 because language exchanges generally tend to be predominately in English.

A language exchange would only be advantageous if you're on a budget and don't want to pay 8 - 15 US an hour for a tutor, which seems to be the going rate. If you really wanted to hit the books hard, and get as much speaking practice as possible, finding several language exchange partners to work with daily would be ideal and free.

Create your own curriculum

If you choose language exchange, this is a must. Whoever you're working with won't know what to do. Like you, they've probably just signed up to practice their English and have no experience teaching. They wont know what or how to teach you.

This won't be the case with a tutor company (I assume). I like one of the above poster's recommendations as he said that you can tell them what you're studying and they'll use that book to tutor you. This flexible option would be appealing to many people as I everyone learns differently and finds that some books and materials call to them over others. The last thing you want to do is pay big bucks to use a book/set of materials that you don't feel is benefiting you.

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I had a free lesson with mychineselearning.com and enjoyed it. I thought they did a nice job. They work by selling subscriptions to their service which is good and bad. You can get a cheaper rate this way, but that is assuming you use all the allotted meetings times available per month. It is like a gym membership. Those who never go to the gym subsidizing the rate for those who go all the time.

Since I really need to work on Japanese, I didn't follow through with signing up, but I thought hiring a tutor in China was an awesome idea. I took cheap language classes in New York City and after my company subsidizing the classes I still paid 5 dollars for 50 minutes.

I think mychineselearning.com was 6 dollars for 45 minutes, one on one, and still enjoyable even though it was on Skype.

Since I only tried one service, I have no idea how it compares to echineselearning or the wealth of others available. I found the ad on Nciku.com and chinese-tools.com and I remember seeing others there as well.

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kdavid, I'm not sure if language exchange needs to be necessarily in Chinese. The Law of Language Exchange, as I call it, predicts that you will gravitate towards the language the two of you speak best, and thus if you speak Chinese well enough you just need to find Chinese people with very rudimentary English skills, and believe these people do exist, you can find them in droves online if you know where to look.

So it depends on the Chinese level of the OP. If the OP is still at the beginning, hiring a tutor might actually be the better option...

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I should mention most of the online Chinese tutoring services provide first lesson for free. Also check to see that the fees are going to be refundable after the first 30 days - in case you're not happy with the service.

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I was actually look at iMandarinPod as I prefer their podcasts to ChinesePod, though they are a bit difficult for me if I don't have the transcript in front of me.

I'm definitely look for a tutor for hire. I've done language exchanges in the past, and the major problem is that I'm very much confined in my time. The randomness of language exchanges when done over the Internet means I'd probably never end up online with the other party. With a paid-tutor I would hopefully be able to schedule something.

Thanks for your input everyone, if anyone else has any ideas, advice or suggestions I'd be delighted to here them! Looks like it is time to try out some of the trial services!

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