German Private Tutor berlin

Save money & Time with a Private German Tutor

Is it worth it to get a private German tutor?

SOME THOUGHTS FROM A TEACHERS POINT OF VIEW

The following is my reaction to a discussion on toytown that you can find here (click). I simply couldn’t sit still any longer reading that that school is better than that one because it is cheaper or whatever reason they have found. In general, a language school is a language school and group courses are all suffering from the same systemic flaws that I will describe below. Feel free to disagree and to bring up solid arguments for your point in case you indeed want to disagree ^^.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen.

HERE WE GO

I once again would like to mention that a German private tutor is the best option if you are serious about learning proper German (Find out about our German private lessons in Berlin).

Let’s do some math: A cheap course costs 200€ per month (e.g. Hartnack-Schule) plus some books and the exam fee later on.
To reach fluency which more or less starts after your B2 exam (exactly the moment that you hold your certificate) you would need
9 months if you keep up with the speed in class. That makes 1.800€ plus sth sth for the books and the exam fee, so let’s say 2.000€.

HOW TO MEASURE THE QUALITY OF A COURSE

I have it from one of the directors of a big school here in Berlin that around 60-70% pass the B1 exam, and I suppose that that is also
the quota for the B2 exam if not even lower. You should ask the schools you are thinking of about their success rate regarding the exams
you are about to take (if so). Of course there are many self-inflicted reasons why learners do not pass the exam but it might also hint
to the quality of the instruction.

German Private Tutor versus German Language Courses
die Privatsphäre – the privacy / Image from Pixabay

LESS IS MORE

I often read here (and elsewhere) that getting many lessons for little money is a good thing. It is not. At least not in a fixed structure that is
predominant on the market today. If you learn a language you want that to happen quickly. While 100 hours might bring you farther than 50 hours,
if you can’t advance on your own speed, you will have simply paid 50 hours for sitting and waiting to advance to the next level. Only a few schools will
(be able to) let you jump to a higher class before time and also then you will miss some of the important stuff as the courses are not tailored to your individual needs.
So what you are getting cheaper is more of the same. But in language learning what you need is more new stuff to advance quickly.
If you purchase 600 hrs of classes running with 50% efficiency what you get is 300 hrs of real value while losing ! 300hrs of your precious time.
But it might not even 50% that you will get out of a group as I will point out below.

WHY CLASSES ARE A WASTE OF PRECIOUS TIME AND PROVIDE LOW QUALITY

Now, sitting in class with 10 or even 20 people is a waste of time for ~66% of the participants. The teacher will try to find a moderate speed to
keep that group together for as long as it lasts. That means, should you be a slow learner, you’d be still running behind, should you be a fast
learner you most likely will get bored. And even if the class runs at exactly at your individual speed, you might be slowed down by the slowies
or simply be annoyed by the fasties that might decide to simply distract the rest of the class to get at least some attention.

THE PRONUNCIATION PROBLEM

But let’s assume the class is amazingly disciplined and running at optimum speed. You will be listening to very little original German as teachers
are instructed to let students interact. That’s the so called communicative approach. That means that you will often talk to non-native speakers that
naturally make a lot of mistakes and also will not be able to correct yours. The teacher will not be able to properly keep an ear on your efforts and miss
out on correcting you a lot. Listening to how a teacher corrects other people’s mistakes is not the same and most likely will do very little for your pronunciation. And once you have fossilized a mistake it is a pain in the neck to get it out of the system.

GERMAN ONLY

Then all schools at least in Berlin or even Germany have to instruct you in German only. That is an amazing challenge for many learners. In an 1 on 1 session thatmight work with a little help from our friend the English language here and there but with 10 people that will just frustrate you. Sure, you will in the end figure sth out on your own, but why paying a teacher then if she doesn’t do her job by explaining things fast and clearly to you so that you don’t have to figure things out on your own and take the risk of misunderstanding things. The schools have to work like this for economical and organizational reasons but they often at times also claim to do so because they believe in a myth that speaking solely in the target language will speed up the learning process. Obviously that is far from the truth. I instruct in English and practice in German and have managed to teach students in a lot less time than 6 months.

DISCLAIMER

I am not advertising my services here. Take any private tutor you want. Those are available for as little at 14€ per hour on italki.com. I just can’t watch those who are serious about learning German wasting their time and in the end money by sitting in overcrowded classes (three makes a crowd). I have taught huge classes for way too many years and will never ever teach a group again as it is simply more frustrating than necessary for all involved.

THE GOALS ARE INDEPENDENCE AND KNOWING HOW TO LEARN

They also never really teach you HOW to learn instead they are simply showing you “only” WHAT to learn. Learning German is a highly complex matter that most learners need thorough guidance to learn efficiently and effectively. Most private tutors won’t do that either though. That’s why you might want to search the net for “learning how to learn (a language)” or similar. There is a free course on Coursera.com about that topic, though not focussing on language: Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects by Dr. Barbara Oakley, Dr. Terrence Sejnowski as a starter. Search for “linkword technique” and work with memrise.com to make the most out of your learning time.

THE REAL COSTS OF A PRIVATE GERMAN TUTOR AND GROUP COMPARED

So, let’s assume you find a German private tutor for 20€/hour (60mins not 45mins like they sell you in school to make the number of lessons seem higher). For 2.000€ you’d get 100 lessons with that tutor. If you had one hour a day, which is more than sufficient as your attention span sinks after 45mins and you will also have to do some homework or real work, that money would last 5 months!!! not counting in the weekends, give her some rest.

But as the instruction is way more efficient and if she’s good (!), she will also provide you with a lot (!) of homework so you will advance much faster than that. And by the way, you’ll know when a teacher is good. You will feel ! it right away. Even if a tutor costs you 40€/hour -which by the way is a more than fair price as a private tutor usually pays around 500€ monthly insurances alone before taxes) you could simply see that tutor 3x per week and still have 4 months of highly efficient and above all individual instruction which is more than enough if you do your homework (i might have mentioned that before).

PRIVATE GERMAN TUTORS ARE TIMELORDS (AND LADIES)

So next to not spending a single cent more than with a group course, you would also save time. Imagine what you could do with one month of extra lifetime?

Feel free to disagree. These are just the results of 15 years of teaching German in schools and also of having sat in over 20 language courses due to my studies and also out of pure interest). Compare it to your own experience and come to your own conclusions.

LAST DISCLAIMER

I am not criticising language schools for doing what they have to do to survive. And some of them do the hell of a job to deliver good services to their clients, I have heard good from GLS and Tandem e.V. Berlin I know personally. The Goethe is just amazingly overpriced, though if you go there the money goes back to the government (currently they make 111 Mio EUR annually with the language courses worldwide alone) and might reduce my tax load. But they also offer many other amazing cultural events and also a soothing atmosphere that might make up for some of it. But…

IF YOU INSIST ON TAKING CLASSES IN A GROUP

think of the people you would like to work with. The Goethe will bring you in touch with another clientel than the VHS or a school like Hartnack e.g.
If you are a fast learner seek schools that offer small ! groups (less than 8 people) but that will make courses significantly more expensive.
Count in the time you need to get to that school. Can you make use of the time otherwise lost traveling? The free Memrise-app is a great travel companion.
Ask for the success rates of the ones taking the exam and if that number seems awfully low to you ask them why this is so. If they stagger around then they haven’t done their homework and I would be a bit more skeptical.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

Then before signing anything, ask for a free trial lesson. If it is a big school I would even ask if you could try two different teachers as the quality of your experience mainly depends on your view of the competency of that person. They might not want you to do that with the reason that you might disturb the class e.g. but one session should be for free in any case. If they do not accept that, get out of there. This is not the way to conduct an ethical business. I do not spend 200€ or even more on something that I can’t see or that I can’t return. Even though at times a half year package might save you 100€ I wouldn’t sign that before I have thoroughly tested out that teacher at least for a month.

ALWAYS ASK

If you have already sold your soul and your house to the school and feel not content with the tutor or just feel like you are not advancing as quickly as you hoped for, seek an honest talk with the teacher to give you feedback on your performance and ask for suggestions on how to improve that. Or simply go to the office and ask to change classes. That of course will only work in the bigger schools and schools will be usually hesitant
to let you migrate because it messes up their planning. They often try to fill every class to the maximum and are willing to make compromises regarding the homogeneity of the language level of the group which is not to your advantage.

FINAL WORDS

Again, don’t take anything I say for granted. I hope you see the logic in most of what I said but when it comes to my experience, check whether I am correct with my claims or not. Either way I genuinely wish you success with your German learning and may you enjoy the beauty of that fabulous language of mine 😉

Herzlichst
Michael

12 Replies to “Save money & Time with a Private German Tutor”

  1. Exchange between C-and-C and smarterGerman

    Great post, very thorough. I agree with you completely that the most efficient way to learn a language (or anything for that matter) is through individual coaching. Can you imagine learning a musical instrument in a group class???

    Danke Dir C-and-C. And that’s a nice analogy with the music lesson. Although there’s much more vocabulary involved when you study German than there is in music 😉

    However, not everyone is cut out to make the most out of individual instruction. It takes a certain level of motivation and self discipline to do the amount of work between coachings to make it work, which makes this method the most appropriate for highly motivated learners only. People learn languages for a myriad of different reasons, and for some of them, private coaching will be the perfect choice, while others will get more out of the language school experience: many people enjoy the social and cultural element that a language school provides, as well as the interaction with fellow students particularly if they are newly arrived in Berlin or only here for a short time.

    DONT HANG OUT WITH THE “WRONG” FOLKS

    I dare to claim that if you are not cut out to make the most out of individual tuition, you are even less cut out to make the most out of group tuition. It the matter of the teacher to guide the learner and to keep an eye on her / his progress. But of course, if a student has no motivation to do her / his homework than there is much less sense in working with a tutor. The question that then arises is why is that learner trying to learn the language then? I daresay that the least students I had over the last 15 years went to class solely for social or cultural reasons. Most of those wished they would learn the language quickly. The social element makes the pain less painful but on the other hand is has a huge (!) downside: you are socializing with non-natives. When I learn Greek I learn Greek to be able to talk to Greek people and not to those who are at the same level as I am. You become friends with the “wrong” people and make your integration into the new culture way more difficult and unlikely. Of course that’s mainly valid for those who are in the country of the language they are learning.
    Instead it would be way more useful to simply follow one’s interests and seek out a club or union of some kind. There are plenty for almost everything at least here in Berlin.

    But sure, if one is seeking fun by hanging out with other foreigners in a language course, I am the last one to propose private lessons to them. In the end you have to know what you are looking for. But I fear that often at times people end up in half-heartedly designed courses because they simply don’t have many options to choose from, like e.g. when one works a full time job or has a family to take care of. But a good reason to attend a group doesn’t make the group a good choice. My attitude regarding language learning is, that if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all because you might end up with broken language and broken motivation. Maybe you will even become convinced that you are not good at learning languages. That is not only a privilege of standard schools.

    I guess the wonderful thing is that there is so much choice out there, from the choice as to what learning model you prefer, to which tutor, or school you choose.

    CHOICE IS THE REAL PROBLEM
    While I generally agree with you regarding having a choice, when starting to learn something so vast in size and so abstract that it is simply overwhelming like a language, choice is the last thing I want. I want guidance through the kuddelmuddel (that’s German for Tohuwabohu) and reduction. Step by step the abundance will unfold in front of your eyes. But when it all falls in on you right in the beginning, it is simply an overload of information. Then there is the problem that not many learners know HOW TO learn a language efficiently. Most of us know how to SOMEHOW learn a language as we most likely were forced to survive standard school education. But neither I, nor my 12 yo son, have been educated in HOW TO learn a language most efficiently. So, many learners go through life with an inefficient way of studying languages (and most likely other things as well). But this point you won’t find with many private tutors either.

    I also agree with your suggestion to do a test class (Free) as well as doing a month before you decide to commit to more months…..nothing worse than shelling out big dollars only to find that the course isn’t right for you…. And yes, the Goethe Institute is very overpriced… There are schools, (GLS and DIE NEUE SCHULE spring to mind) that are half the price and offer the same if not better in terms of cultural activities, class sizes, and teaching quality. I guess the reason why people still go there is partly due to the scholarship program (I have the feeling that the proportion of paying students is low) as well as their presence internationally. As an Australian, I had studied with them in Melbourne and Sydney and automatically checked them out when I came to Germany….they are a household name when it comes to German language learning…

    I didn’t know there is was some kind of scholarship program with the GI. And reading that they make a 111 Mio. Euros a year on language tuition, let’s me doubt your assumption that most people receive such kind of financial support 😉 Check this lovely report for more insights: https://www.goethe.de/uun/pro/jb13/Rechenschaftsbericht2012-2013.pdf. They do gorgeous work in general. Their courses are just too expensive. But I am sure that they have a good reason for that price. I haven’t heard it yet, though. If I ever get hold of anyone at GI able to explain to me why they charge 5x as much as the cheapest schools while having the same amount of students in the group, I will invite her or him for dinner.

    Thanks for the nice reply C-and-C. Love thinking things through. Have a good evening.

    1. I would say, they charge that amount of money, because the market is willing to pay for it 😉

      Thanks for the wonderful post!

      1. Naw… that’d be too simple. Would you pay for something that is clearly overpriced? I have learned that prices are relative to the value time has for each of us. If I think about this a bit longer, I will have to raise my prices 😉 Have a good day, Alexandra.

  2. I totally agree. I am a Spanish teacher and I have ben teaching for almost 20 years. In the last 5 years I have tought on a 1-to-1 basis (1-to-2) and the results are there to see: proficiency, confidence, great language skills and better results in th official examinations.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for the informative post. Based on you it experience how many hours of private tuition do you think are adequate for someone who has completely free days and is highly motivated to learn German. I don’t want to take too many classes a week to get to the point where I don’t have enough time between the work to do individual study.
    Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. Hallo John,
      that all depends on what you want and what the tutor has in mind for you.
      I work 1x 45mins per week with my clients but they provide me daily with their spoken and written homework via Whatsapp and Google Docs. In addition to that they have 2-3x 30-45mins conversation classes with my partner. At this speed and with 60-180mins additionally daily you can achieve significant results in 3 months. The more time you invest the more you’ll get out of it. Anything less might lead to slow progress and prolong the learning process unnecessarily. The problem with that is only that one’s motivation tends to suffer the longer one needs to achieve one’s goals. But if that works for you, there is no general issue with working less intensely.
      I hope this helps a bit.

  4. Hi, Michael,

    This helps a lot. I was actually thinking that 6 hours a week with a private tutor would be too little time but you just made me feel like I may be actually doing too much in terms of lessons. I also have a lot of native speakers as friends and I speak to them exclusively in German. I hope that I will be able to progresss quickly in the next 4 months with this plan of 3 double lessons per week and many hours of conversation, studying and watching German television.

    1. Hi John, this reads as if you could benefit greatly from our online course: courses.smartergerman.com/p/learn-german-online-course-a1-b1 That course will take all learning organization and homework assignment from your (tutor’s) shoulders so that you can focus on learning. My private clients work with it as well.

  5. Good Day
    My son has been in Germany over the past 3 years for study. All the degree programmes he wishes to enroll for are all in German. He did some classes and has been learning on his own and now converses quite fluently (I think) in German. However he tried the exams but was not confident in the area where he had to do a presentation /debate in his sitting in August. Do you think he has enough time to do private tutoring to help him resit this exam in September 13th?

    1. Dear Toylan, I can only recommend contacting Andrea from https://livelygerman.com and ask her whether she’d be able to support you.
      Without hearing your son speak, there’s no way I could make any prediction about his chances in any exam. I also am always very skeptical if learners do not contact me directly but if parents are taking over. That is usually a rather concerning sign as independence is a key skill needed when studying or working in Germany. I understand that our cultures differ yet its the German culture that matters in this situation.
      I wish your son success.
      Best regards
      Michael

      1. Hi Michael. Thanks for your post. One question- do you know a reliable platform to look for an in-person private german tutor in Berlin?

        1. Hi Mariam,
          I can’t recommend any platform as you’ll always have to evaluate the tutor yourself.
          Take a look around here: https://go.italki.com/affbettergerman (affiliate link at no cost to you).
          Other than that I can receommend working with Andrea from livelygerman.com as I’ve worked with her in the past.
          I can only recommend working with a tutor if you want to prepare for an oral exam. Beyond that purpose it is a
          waste of time and money in my experience. There are more cost effective ways to practice your speaking among others the techniques I teach in my online courses.
          Lieben Gruß
          Michael

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