One of my biggest regrets is that I've never managed to get a good Chinese pronunciation. I studied this language at home, at university, with friends and yet my speaking skills really suck...The hardest part is to go from one tone to the next smoothly while keeping my breath as well as the dynamic of the sentence. I had almost lost all hope until I found Preply and started taking lessons with two tutors from that platform...
You might be asking yourself, what's Preply exactly? It is a platform for language learning! If like me, you want to learn a new language with a private teacher who will tailor every lesson to your needs, then maybe this is for you! You can also choose a teacher after chatting with him/her or based on their pricing per hour. Not all languages are cheap but hey, these are private lesson!
I needed help with Chinese so I checked the teachers' list and found a few natives who looked like they knew how to teach and had good reviews. I picked 3 in total and chatted a bit with them to explain my needs and assess their teaching style/method before booking a trial lesson with 2 of them. One of best aspects of Preply is that you don't need to immediately book a bundle of lessons, you can start with just one to see whether you and your teacher click or not. You will still need to pay for the lesson but you are not left with 5 more hours if it appears you can't stand your tutor!
Another really cool aspect of Preply that I discovered is that you need to confirm that the lesson took place before being credited an hour and if the trial lesson didn't go well, you can either be refunded or the platform will provide you with another teacher. Let's just say that this platform really exceeded my expectations in that sense!
I had my 2 trial lessons with my Chinese tutors a few weeks ago, both showed expertise in teaching and even prepared slides to test my knowledge and work on my weaknesses. All in all, my two teachers have really different styles but I decided to extend my trial with them and took 5 more lessons to really understand which method fits me the best...
Practically how does it work?
Once you have chosen your teacher, you can just click on "Schedule lesson", pick an hour and a payment method (Credit Card or Paypal) and confirm! Easy right? You will receive a confirmation e-mail and a reminder before your lesson, just in case you forgot!
Your lessons will take place on Skype with your tutor and 5 minutes before the end, a pop-up will appear reminding you to confirm that the lesson took place (+an email and a notification on Preply!). Once you confirm, you will be invited to rate your lesson and to take more lessons: 1, 5 or 10. If the course didn't take place, you will need to report it and a solution will be found :) If this isn't your first course, you will still be invited to confirm the lesson, rate the teacher and to book your next lesson if it isn't done yet!
I really like the fact that I was able to try a teacher without having to book a bundle of hours. I also found the quality control system very reassuring: if the class doesn't take place you can say it and you won't loose an hour, if it didn't go well then the platform finds you another teacher or refunds you. For me it is important to be able to trust the platform and with Preply it is the case.
In terms of lessons, I realized that online beats live in my case! While I am usually stuck with a trimester of courses in a class of 5-10 students, with Preply I have the teacher to myself working on my needs. It also allowed me to realize that I am actually not bad at Chinese at all:
First, both teachers tested my knowledge of Pinyin and the tones. I realized that my biggest issue is with the tones but not so much the Pinyin which I handle rather well.
Second of all, my teachers started with beginners lessons and understood that I actually knew a lot about grammar: asking questions, structure of the sentence, tenses, words etc. and we are able to move forward very fast while focusing on my pronunciation :) They often show me a sentence and ask me to pronounce, translate or answer it, what's the grammatical point to learn and if I know we keep moving forward, if not I get the explanation...And if I have doubts I can just say it! I also try a lot to guess what the proper way of saying something would be like to at least test my knowledge/logic and quite often I am right.
The more hours I do, the more my teachers know me and understand how to work with me hence adapting their lessons! It's nice and it feels more adequate.
Some teachers have a YouTube channel, it is the case with one of my teachers and it's great! I can watch her videos, learn and pronounce with her when I have time so I can learn even faster or ask questions when something isn't clear :)
All is all, I think I will keep on using this platform to improve my skills or until my teachers are tired of me ;)
If you are hesitant or have questions, don't hesitate to drop me a comment and I'll answer you as best as I can! In the meantime, let's all learn some Chinese!