Tutor experience and recommendations

Hey all. I’m looking for a tutor in Tokyo to practice speaking. I have done some research, but I’m curious about anyone’s experiences with tutors, particularly in Tokyo, but in or out of Japan as well.

I think what I’m looking for is something casual. I couldn’t imagine meeting up with a tutor in a suit, and I don’t think I’m looking for a teacher per se. Perhaps my ideal situation would be someone with similar interests that I’m paying to put up with me rather than guided lessons.

Anyway, thoughts, recommendations on how to find what I’m looking for? Past experiences, advice, etc.

Not all tutors wear a suit. Also what you’re looking for is a tandem partner. A Japanese native speaker who wants to learn your language. So you meet regularly and spend half the time speaking Japanese and the other half speaking your language. That way you don’t have to pay the tandem partner but you both get something out of it.

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You may be right. I think I’m biased to working with someone who is paid to focus on me, but I hadn’t considered a language exchange partner as an alternative to a tutor. I am looking for something that I can get started quickly and without trouble (and that silly anxiety of having to be useful to someone else). It seems that a tutor would be a better option in the short term? But as I’m writing this I’m thinking yea, you’re right, a tandem partner is the style I’m looking for.

There are some tutors who do free-talk style as well, something to keep in mind. With mine, we talk for about half the time in Japanese, and then the other half the time we spend going over worksheets and she sends me homework. It works out pretty well for me.

Edit: also I certainly don’t wear a suit or even necessarily nice clothes to Skype her. Mostly if I’m wearing PJ’s I’ll toss on a cardigan but that’s it.


Well, if you can afford having classes, I don’t see a problem with paying for a tutor to talk. Some people might feel a little more comfortable knowing that the other person is being paid to help you with your “terrible Japanese”. With a language exchange partner, it’s easy to compare your skills with the other person in terms of language being learned, as you might feel you’re wasting the other person’s time. Even you end up having questions during the talking, a tutor would usually be better qualified to give you better answers.

What I do with mine is basically getting some questions out of the way first and then use the remaining time to practice speaking. I chose someone that looked like I would be comfortable having as a friend (ex: same age). Having a tutor 20 years older than me could inhibit me for example. I also chose someone that could handle English pretty well, because there might be something we end up talking about that I’m not able to express in Japanese. This also adds safety: you can stretch all your Japanese skills until the limit. If you still fail to express what you want, you can easily resource to English to continue the flow of the conversation and get informed of a good way to transmit what you intended.


Oooh this. I was also careful to select a female tutor personally because I know that men and women speak a little differently over there and I didn’t want to pick up incorrect habits listening to and learning from a guy. I know tutors are mostly aware of that and are careful, it was just something to remove some potential confusion for me.

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I have used italki.com are really liked it. It is reasonably priced. The really nice thing about it is that the scheduling is easy, the site handles all the payment aspects, and all the teachers/tutors have bios and video intros so you can get a (small) sense of what they are like. All the teachers also have a reduced price intro lesson rate so you can try out and see if its a good fit.
I have always felt better about paying someone who is a language teacher to suffer through my terrible Japanese speaking.

The site has people who do every kind of thing: formal 1 on 1 structured classes to very casual speaking practice and everything in between.

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I personally had much more success with paying tutors rather than language exchange. This is because I’m a very talkative person, and I don’t seem to be able to stay within the boundaries of topics that my limited japanese can cover, so eventually I tend to use English much more than Japanese. With a proper teacher that doesn’t happen.

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