You might have scoffed at the title of this article: is there such a thing as the right teacher? Isn't anyone who can speak French a right teacher?
For many reasons, the answer to that question is a resounding negative.
Think about your formal schooling experience: did you like every teacher? Did you start every learning session with keen anticipation?
Have you worked with teachers who are always responsive to your needs, attentive to your preferred method of learning; who are supportive and encouraging?
Have you ever had a single educator who makes subject matter come alive for you?
That is the type of teacher we mean when broaching the subject of the right teacher to learn French with.
We certainly don't mean this type of teacher, in Houston, who starts every class with Bonjour, and then teaches French in English!
Let us now embark on a journey to discover how to find the perfect French instructor for you.
Reasons to Learn French
The first question to ask is why you want to learn the wonderful, melodious language of Molière.
Do you like holidaying in the south of France? Touring the vineyards of Bordeaux maybe, or perhaps backpacking the Pilgrimage trails?
If so, conversational French would fit the bill!
Maybe you enjoy skiing in Switzerland, or perhaps are planning to visit relatives in Canada – both French speaking countries.
You would have to take into account the variances from the official language – what is called Metropolitan French.
Are you a government worker, headed to Belgium for a summit? You would need to build more of a business French vocabulary.
Perhaps you are hoping for a salary bump in your current job, or to be a better multitasker.
Studies have shown that those who are bilingual not only stave off dementia in old age, but tend to be more valued in the workplace for their organisation skills.
How Much French do You Know?
Are you starting from scratch – a beginner at foreign language learning? Or are you more at intermediate level, but need intensive work on French pronunciation?
What if you are preparing to sit French A Levels, or to sit the DELF?
As you can see, there are so many variables to consider before selecting a French teacher that is right for you!
And the list goes on...
Where are your language learning strengths – aspects you can master relatively easily, and where would more work be required?
Some language learners excel at listening and speaking, but reading and writing might prove challenging.
Are you of such a mind that grammar – the nuts and bolts of language construction comes easy to you? Or is vocabulary, the absorption of French words, more your forte?
Are you an advocate of what is called traditional learning: at a desk, notebook at the ready, jotting down key words of language and culture?
Or are you more hip to modern styles of learning: moving around, singing and clapping hands?
You would be surprised how helpful music can be in French learning!
French is a most rhythmic language.
Unlike in English, there is no stress on individual words' syllables, and parts of sentences are broken into rhythmic groups, according to syntax.
Where in the world would you find a French teacher who would consider all of these aspects of learning French, and more?
See the different French lessons available on Superprof.
What Qualities does a Good Teacher Embody?
good teachers do not come two a penny.
As evidenced by the glaring example of the French teacher in Houston, apparently anyone can stand in front of a classroom; that doesn't mean s/he can teach.
However maligned that teacher is, he may possess qualities that every teacher should have:
- support for every student; no favouritism or deeming any student a lost cause
- a passion for learning and for life
- the ability to see things from alternate perspectives, and explain subject matter in a different way
As far as the Houston teacher is concerned, that last may well be his primary qualifier!
Another essential quality a teacher must have is a firm grasp on his/her subject matter.
That is why a non French speaker teaching the language caused such a sensation.
French language instruction, like just about every other subject, can be an exercise in frustration.
Imagine you are leading a classroom full of students, but only a few have any aptitude or desire to learn what you have been tasked to teach.
And, mid-semester, you will be judged on your ability to impart knowledge, based on your students' test scores.
That is why patience tops the list of desired attributes for teachers!
While such scenarios may be common in secondary school French class, nothing says that the teachers leading French courses all over the country, on the Internet and perhaps even in your home would operate under similar conditions.
One criterion to look for in a good French teacher is temperament.
If you are looking for beginner French classes London, relying on feedback from that instructor's former students is one way to gauge his/her patience, understanding and support.
The website Rate my Teachers makes it easy to get an overview of the quality of instruction you would be treated to by any given teacher on that list.
But... these are all school teachers! How are you, an adult hoping for extracurricular lessons in advanced French, supposed to benefit from those reviews?
Many school teachers supplement their income – or feed their passion for teaching by tutoring evening and weekends.
Are you looking for a tutor for French lessons online?
Points to Ponder in Seeking a Tutor
There is a bit of a difference between a French teacher for your child who is still in school, and one for yourself, who are looking to gain some language skills – for whatever reason.
Your child might need a French language teacher who knows about the demands of the National Curriculum, and will work at an age appropriate level.
S/he should be able to base instruction on mandated French textbooks, and not vary too widely from what your child expects from a language learning experience.
To be sure, the teacher can and should introduce new expressions and vocabulary, but should tailor French lessons to the age of student.
For example, it would be inappropriate to discuss concerts and other aspects of French culture with a 7 year old.
On the other hand, should you wish to master the art of French conversation before your next holiday, discussions of cultural activities would be most suitable.
Native Speaker or Bilingual?
We have a tendency to want the best for our money, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, when it comes to learning French, there is some debate on whether engaging a teacher whose native language is French is the best idea.
Here is why:
While certainly adept at speaking and understanding French, a native speaker might not have all the answers.
Because people learn their native language as a matter of course, French grammar rules might be especially tricky for someone native to France to impart, no matter how educated s/he is.
Also, s/he may suffer tunnel vision. Spoken French has certain aspects that are difficult for non French speakers to master, such as the guttural R, or the different sounds that accents give certain vowelsFinally: that tutor's English language skills might not be sufficient to communicate the finer points of pronunciation and grammar.
How about a bilingual teacher, then? Someone who learned French as a second language?
French teachers in the UK must go through rigorous training, to include proving their proficiency in French and obtaining at least a bachelor's degree.
An additional requirement for potential teachers is to undergo licensure; a test in which the candidate must demonstrate his/her ability to teach effectively.
All of that work and training may increase the price of your linguistic quest for fluency!
A French tutor, on the other hand, is not required to seek licensing or undergo any special training before giving a French lesson.
The rule of thumb for hiring a tutor is that s/he should be at minimum one level higher than yours.
If you can speak basic French, for example, your tutor should be at intermediate level.
In seeking out a tutor to learn the French language from, you would have to rely on the veracity of testimonials left by francophones who have benefited from his/her language courses.
You can find such French course recommendations at Gumtree, Freeads and other online French learning websites.
Or, you could drop in on Superprof.
If you want to study French, to earn a diploma or just improve your listening comprehension, Superprof has a tutor for you.
Should your concern be verb conjugation or using the right tense; whether you are looking for French immersion, Superprof tutors will guide you to becoming the francophone you always knew you could be.
All you need is a Skype connection and a willingness to learn.
Are you worried that your French tutor won't be the right fit?
Most Superprof tutors give their first hour of lessons free, for exactly that purpose.
What are you waiting for? Allons-y!
Learn more about the cost of French tuition.