Tips for first time online tutoring session

Hey guys, I’ve decided to finally do it… can’t speak Japanese if all I do is study kanji (almost half way wohooo thanks WK) so I went and booked an online session with a tutor. Now I’m kind of nervous because I have no idea what to do.

My idea was to have 90%+ japanese conversations with no corrections to mimic real life conversations but I’m not sure if I can even manage 10 minutes… getting flashbacks of that french class when I took my first speaking test - not so good :stuck_out_tongue: My grammar is weak for someone who finished Genki 1+2 (shouldn’t have skipped the exercises in 2 lol)

Thought I could get some tips from people who have done it, what did you do on the first session if you weren’t yet comfortable with Japanese? Should I talk most of the time or should I just let them talk/read something and have them ask simple questions?

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Is it a professional tutor or a community tutor?

A professional tutor will know how to lead a lesson, and you’ll just need to explain what you’re hoping to achieve with the sessions… The tutor will usually prepare the lesson beforehand, so you can usually rely on them to structure this and future lessons.

I’ve never used a community tutor, I assume some of them will work in a similar fashion to pro ones…


At first I didn’t notice the distinction but I went back to check and its a community tutor. Are professional tutors sort of like trained tutors? Mine had good reviews, charged a decent price and mentioned they were patient so I went ahead with it

Is jumping into the lesson unprepared such a bad idea?

Professional tutors are qualified. That doesn’t mean they’re all better than community ones though, but they’ve been trained to teach (I think they need to provide their certification to the platform to have this status).

The first lesson will mostly be about getting to know each other anyway! The tutor will be trying to gage your level and understand your expectations, and you’ll be trying to assess whether this tutor suits you and your style. It can take a few lessons before you start to feel comfortable. :slight_smile:

I usually go with community tutors and I’d say they’re typically very good at keeping the conversation going when you can’t think of something to say


The difference is only that professional tutors have a certificate. In my experience it’s not a good indicator of quality.

I’m having regular classes with a community tutor. And she’s very structured and diligent. She prepares grammar notes and assignments for every lesson. I’m really happy with her.

I had classes with ~20 tutors, both pro and community and in most cases they go like this:

  1. a few days before the class you get in touch and set the expectations - is there a particular topic you want to learn / practice?
  2. when the lesson starts you get to know each other. Prepare a brief self intro
  3. you go through the topic you requested or just chat.

If you don’t request a specific topic the lesson will probably be in a question-answer format because the tutor needs to get you talking.


Well. I tried conversation once before wasn’t tutor or anything. Just in language app.
Should i really call it conversation …?

I agree that you’ll most likely spend the majority of your first session introducing yourself, setting expectations (if you haven’t already), and just finding your “flow” with your tutor. If your tutor is experienced, they’ll be able to steer the conversation in the right direction even in moments when you don’t know what to say – irrespective of whether they’re community or professional tutors.

I would argue in favor of having your tutor correct you explicitly though as the research consensus on second language acquisition is that explicit negative feedback is one of the most effective ways for a learner to avoid mistakes. Your tutor will most likely do this anyway, but you may not want to suggest that they shouldn’t correct you.

There are a variety of ways to have an online tutor correct you in conversation without interrupting you every time or making you feel self-conscious about your language ability so I’m sure you’ll figure out what works best for you. My tutor for instance uses the chat feature of the online classroom to point out some obvious but incidental errors (e.g., a word I mixed up or a wrong particle) while I’m speaking and reserves more fundamental things or errors I make repeatedly for when we’ve finished the dialogue (e.g., more varied ways to connect sentences).


I was nervous the first time as well, but now I do multiple lessons per week. Many iTalki teachers I’ve met have preset questions they will start with to get an idea of your level. Some will just sit there and expect to have something like a normal conversation. Don’t worry about it. If it doesn’t work out, you don’t need to continue with them.

I have three teachers right now with very different styles - one very attentive and willing to speak to my level, one that just fires away at native speed until I interrupt with 分かりません!, and one who is very casual and has similar interests to discuss. I do different lesson types with each. It’s a very customizable system.

One recommendation - make sure your teacher gives you written corrections to study. Most do, but some do not.

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