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I've previously learnt a language (Japanese) via group lessons, but today I'm going to be learning a language (Mongolian) from an individual tutor. I'm not "choosing" between group and individual, as I can't find any group non-online lessons for Mongolian in Sydney.

What pitfalls or bad habits should I watch out for in individual lessons? Ones I can think of are the lesson going at too leisurely a pace, or the lesson turning into an English-language chat about the language's country. I've also chosen for the first lesson to be in a public place. Are there others I should watch out for?

  • Is this tutor a qualified teacher or just a native speaker? – Christophe Strobbe Mar 26 '18 at 15:09
  • She's Mongolian, grew up bilingual in Russian and Mongolian, and had previously taught Russian (to Mongolian speakers) and English (don't know who to). I was her first student in Mongolian. – Andrew Grimm Mar 26 '18 at 22:06
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One limitation in individual lessons is that group lessons can help you notice mistakes indirectly. Using the example of Japanese, you could hear a fellow student make a mistake (say for instance in the selection of in a way where the instructor either does not understand or uses corrective feedback. In the process, you realize you've been making the same mistake and listen for when it comes up.

Second, you can learn effective simple patterns that other students use. By watching their student-teacher interactions, you can notice when another student discovers something that works but is simple. (For instance, as English speakers, one breakthrough in Japanese learning is learning not to use pronouns).

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There are a few "bad habits" I've noticed it's easy to fall into in a one-on-one lesson.

  • The roles can easily get blurred between teacher and student. This doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, as it can result in dynamism that wouldn't usually be found in a group lesson, but it can also result in the lesson becoming more of a chat in English, like you mentioned in your question.

  • The situation can (and often will) be very intimidating, for both teacher and student. It isn't often that we spend an hour or more talking to a single person about a single subject, so it will take some getting used to in the first lesson or two. Don't let this hold you back - keep the conversations fluid and you will learn lots.

  • The number of activities available is much lower. There are a lot of group activities that will be unusable with only two members. I do however find it much easier to take part in role play exercises when in a 1-1 scenario, and I often find it easier to have an in-depth, lengthy discussion about a topic when it is a 1-1 scenario than when it is as part of a group.

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