7 Tips for Hosting Private English Lessons in China

7 Tips for Hosting Private English Lessons in China
Oct 12, 2022 By Beth Green , eChinacities.com

Whether you officially work as an English teacher or not, if you're a native speaker in China, you'll probably end up taking part in a language exchange or private tutoring at some point. From casual meetings with friends-of-friends to giving some extra time to a student who’s struggling, you’re unlikely to escape without being asked to host private English lessons in China. Here’s how to make sure yours are a success.

private English lessons in China

1. Be Selective

If you’re a native English speaker living in China, sooner or later, an acquaintance, a co-worker or a parent from the school you teach at will probably approach you about private language lessons. If you already have a teaching job, first check your contract to see if you’re allowed to offer private lessons. Either way, be aware that by the letter of China’s visa laws, you can only legally work for the company that sponsors your work visa. If you have lots of interest and you don’t really need the extra money, think about screening your prospective students on how willing and dependable you think they'll be. Just because they ask, doesn't mean you have to say yes.

2. Don't Sell Yourself Short

Decide how much, if anything, you'd like to charge for your private English lessons. Fees for private lessons can vary wildly depending on your location within China and your relationship with your student. You might get a cup of tea and help with your Mandarin in exchange for an hour's class with a colleague in a small town, while in a bigger city you might get hundreds of yuan for just 45 minutes with a struggling school kid. Ask around among your peers and check the internet to get an idea of an appropriate price for your area. Finally, don’t sell yourself short. If it feels like it’s not worth your time, it’s probably not.

3. Set Goals With Your Students

More often than not, the person approaching you about private English lessons in China will only have the vaguest idea about what they want to learn. “Um, oral English,” I remember one woman saying to me. After a few pointed questions, however, I managed to establish that she had a new boss from Germany who spoke English very quickly during staff meetings. We then set a goal to improve her listen skills at native levels of speed.

I set her homework of listening to free downloads from the BBC as well as audiobooks from the Penguin Classics line. When she and I met we would talk about what she’d been listening to and then role-play meetings on different topics to practice her conversations with her boss. After a few months, she felt much more confident about her communication with her employer and so we found a different goal to work toward.

It doesn't matter what your student’s goal is. From being able to read a cookbook, to getting into an overseas graduate program, to understanding Lady Gaga's latest lyrics, it’s all relevant. Your private English tutoring classes will be more useful for your student—and less stressful for you as the tutor—if you have a clear goal to work towards.

4. Be On Time and Come Prepared

Even if your private English lessons take the form of a casual language exchange with a friend you've known for years, show them respect by making an effort to be on time and ready to hit the ground running. Treat each class as if you were getting paid, even if you aren’t, and come with a clear plan of what you're going to cover, even if it’s just a rough structure scribbled on a napkin. 

Take advantage of the tons of materials for English teachers on the web, for example the BBC's English learning portal and the paired questions at esldiscussions.com. FYI, I was recently turned down by a Chinese teacher I was hoping to do a language exchange with because she said her last two partners were habitually late and unprepared. Whatever side of the desk you’re on, don’t be a time waster.

5. Keep it Realistic

Even if your enthusiastic new student is sure you're going to get him to native level in no time, keep both your classes and your long-term goals realistic. For example, at one time I was meeting for several hours a week with a friend who was trying to get a job in London. I was helping to polish his CV and cover letters and then we were practicing for job interviews in English. We were good friends, but five hours a week learning anything with anybody is enough to fray the nerves. We were simply trying to accomplish too much too quickly.

Whoever you’e working with for whatever reason, try to make your private English lessons varied and easily digestible. Most speaking professionals accept 20 minutes as the average attention span for adults. Keep this in mind when planning your tutoring lessons. You might want to introduce some new vocabulary for 10 minutes, read a newspaper clipping for 20 minutes and have a discussion on current events for 20 minutes. If you’re planning to carry on after this, be sure to take a break before you do.

6. Don’t Make it All About You

Back when I was a university student, I had a Spanish language exchange partner. I don't think the exchange improved my speaking at all, but it was good practice for my listening skills because all my partner did was talk about himself. I learned all about his favorite sports teams, what he ate for breakfast and how his family politics manifested.

After a couple of sessions trying unsuccessfully to steer the conversations in other directions — or even get a word in edgeways — this became incredibly boring. While talking about yourself can be great for improving your students’ listening skills, you’ll want to mix your lessons up by also using materials from books, newspapers, films and the internet. Using a combination of tools will be much more affective at broadening your students' mastery of English.

7. Don’t Forget to Revise

Because private English tutoring in China is often quite flexible, with materials usually studied according to the demand or interest of the student, you may find yourself always thinking forward to the next class and forgetting to go back over the materials that have already been studied.

I find it's a good idea to keep a simple log of what I've covered and use that as a base for periodic quick quizzes. Your student may have mastered fruit a couple of weeks ago, but can she recall more than “apple” and “banana” now? New vocabulary disappears incredibly quickly when you don’t use it. 

7+. Have Fun

My final piece of bonus advice is easy to follow: Have fun! Hosting private language lessons in China can be a really great experience. Whether you’re helping out a co-worker, a neighbor or a friend's cousin's ex-girlfriend, every student and every lesson will be different. If you approach your lessons in the right way, you should be able to teach your students something, learn a lot about Chinese culture and have a bit of a giggle in the meantime.

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Dec 19, 2022 01:44 Report Abuse


it is tips nice

Nov 05, 2022 13:41 Report Abuse