Is an English Tutor Worth It?
Have you ever wondered whether it's better to study at a buxiban or with a private tutor? You may be surprised that in addition to having several obvious benefits, having a private tutor help you study English is actually cheaper and more effective than taking group lessons in a buxiban.
Buxibans and company classes provide a social learning environment. Discussions frequently erupt among students and new concepts in English can be talked about in Chinese. English tutors, if they can speak some Chinese, may even jump into these discussions. Buxiban or company classes can also be an enjoyable break from a busy day, a time to catch up with friends and classmates, and a interesting way to spend an evening.
Traditionally, English learners who study with private English tutors tend to be studying for exams (e.g., IELTS or GRE) or trying to get ahead in their careers. This type of learner has a reputation for being serious, and if you've ever met one in a group or buxiban English class, you may have noticed that they're usually prodding the teacher forward into new material or asking obscure questions.
But lately, other kinds of English learners have begun to use English tutors more frequently. From parents wanting their children's English pronunciation to improve to adults seeking to practice conversation for upcoming foreign travel, more and more people are studying with private English tutors.
This is only natural since there are three key advantages to having a private English tutor. First, piece of mind in that you can easily check an English tutor's qualifications. How many times has a buxiban shown you their English tutor's university degree? Well, most private English tutors will be more than happy to show you their hard-earned certificates (CELTA, DELTA, TOEFL, etc.), university degrees, or resumes. You won't be left wondering if that buxiban English tutor at the front of the class was hired simply because he was a foreigner.
Second, control. You the student can have complete control over what you learn. A good private tutor will develop a personalized lesson plan and select a textbook based on his or her understanding of your skill level and your own desires about which areas of English you want to improve. If you tell your English tutor that you want to improve your pronunciation, your English tutor will focus his lessons on your pronunciation. It's that simple. On the other hand, in a buxiban, English tutors are obliged to make all the students happy, and this usually means a lot of boring repetition of material that you already know—maybe because another student didn't study as well as you did—or classes filled with material that you simply aren't interested in.
The third advantage of a private English tutor is convenience. Most English tutors will travel to your home or office. Many also have good teaching spaces in their own homes. Or, if you prefer, almost all English tutors will be happy to meet you outside at a nearby coffee shop or similar place. You can pick whatever is most convenient for you, and change your mind if you like. Additionally, unlike buxiban classes that are scheduled at a fixed day and time, a private tutor will work with you to schedule a suitable time. And if you have to miss a class, a tutor will be much more understanding than a buxiban, and will help you schedule a make up class.
But what about the cost of an private English tutor? Buxibans are cheaper, right? Not really. Buxibans may appear cheaper, but this is only because there are many students in one class. Suppose a buxiban charges you 250 NT per hour for English class. It many not actually be cheaper than an English tutor that charges 700 NT per hour.
In that same buxiban class, there may be ten students sharing the same hour of English lessons. Most likely the other nine students are not at your level or don't want to learn the same things. If 15 minutes of that buxiban hour are topics that are different from what you want to learn, another 15 minutes are student discussions in Chinese, and another 15 minutes are material that you already know, then that leaves only 15 minutes of each hour that might help you improve your English. You didn't pay 250 NT for an hour of English class. You really paid 250 NT for 15 minutes of English class! Multiply 250 NT by 4 to get one hour of effective English class and that means it cost you 1000 NT for one real hour of English class—300 NT more expensive than your own dedicated private English tutor! Or look at it without the math. You would have to attend four buxiban classes to match one class with a private English tutor.
With the math it's easy to see that a private tutor can be cheaper than a buxiban, but what about the advantages of group or social learning that come from having other students in your class? Well, up until now we've been assuming that your English tutor and you are having a one-on-one English class. In reality, many English learners choose to form English study groups with friends or coworkers and together hire a private tutor. Besides making the cost of the English tutor cheaper for each student, this learning strategy has the best of both worlds: the personal attention of a private tutor and the social atmosphere of a buxiban class.
This is all fine in theory, but does it actually work? In a word: yes. Recently, one of MYU's top English tutors told us a story. For three months, Mike, who's from California but lives in Taiwan, has been teaching Taipei residents and friends Jane Chen and Peggy Liao every week. He charges 750 NT per hour, and Jane pays for even weeks and Peggy pays for odd weeks. During their first meeting, which was free, Mike assessed Jane and Peggy's individual English levels through casual conversation. He also listened to what each of the ladies wanted to learn. A few days later Mike e-mailed Jane and Peggy a three-month lesson plan and suggested two possible suitable textbooks. Jane and Peggy picked the textbook they preferred and began class. Just three months later, Peggy performed excellent in her graduate school interview and Jane no longer feels insecure at work when talking with foreign contacts over the phone. And both are looking forward to their upcoming trip to Canada. Jane and Peggy are now taking a break from their lessons, and Jane now has Mike teaching her two sons, aged eight and 11, to whom Mike explains difficult concepts in Chinese. It is truly one of the MYU success stories.
For serious, casual, or social English learners, studying with a private English tutor is both inexpensive and effective. Private tutors offer piece of mind, control over lessons, and convenience. There really is no better way to improve your English.