How To Choose A Language Teacher

Certifications are important, but they’re not necessarily the thing that’s going to separate decent teachers from great ones.
woman in red sweater and glasses pointing at a whiteboard in front of students how to choose a language teacher

You’ve decided to look for a language teacher. Great! The first step in a lot of multi-step processes is often admitting you need assistance. Of course, you’ll soon come to find that narrowing down your options isn’t that simple. A language teacher will show you how to learn a language, but who will show you how to choose a language teacher to begin with?

To help you help yourself, we asked Krupa Lalji, head of online teaching at Babbel, what her team looks for when they’re hiring Babbel Live teachers. There’s a reason why Babbel Live’s big selling point is the quality of its instructors. It takes all the usual qualifications, and then a little extra, to become a Babbel Live teacher. Here are the main ingredients of this special sauce.

How To Choose A Language Teacher

Check their certifications.

Babbel Live teachers have a teaching qualification or degree in a language-related field and are either native speakers of the language or are certified at a CEFR C2 level (the highest level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale) in the language they teach. There are other language proficiency scales besides CEFR you might encounter, so it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with what it means to be proficient in various systems.

It’s also worth it to look for a teacher who has some sort of teaching credential or certification, even if they’re native speakers of the language you’re learning. Knowing how to speak a language you grew up with doesn’t automatically equate to knowing how to teach it as a second language. Many native speakers go their whole lives without understanding sentence syntax, or what tense they’re invoking when they conjugate verbs a certain way. Don’t overlook an extremely qualified non-native teacher just because they didn’t grow up with the language. In some cases, they might be the ones who will ultimately provide you with a better learning experience.

Pay attention to their personality.

This part matters more than you may think. When hiring Babbel Live teachers, we focus a lot on whether candidates are engaging, charismatic, patient and open-minded. To assess this, we do a five- to 10-minute teaching demo to determine whether they have these skills. You can do this on your own by researching any video material a teacher has posted online, or by asking to sit in on a class before you commit.

“The reasoning is simple — we want to empower our learners to be able to speak in the target language, and most importantly, we want them to come back,” Lalji said. “So we aim to provide that human connection with a balance between learning and engagement through language.”

Determine whether their teaching style makes sense for you.

Different teachers have different teaching styles, and each of them has their own unique toolkit to draw from. For instance, each of our Babbel Live teachers has a few trademark tips they share with their students. A lot of these tips are idiosyncratic kernels of wisdom gleaned from their personal experience and way of seeing the world, not necessarily something you can get from a textbook.

Generally speaking, Babbel Live teachers have flexible teaching styles that maximize the amount of time students can spend speaking. We also look for teachers who can weave in discussions about culture, how to build confidence when speaking and more.

Your personal preference will ultimately serve as your guide in this domain. That means you should spend some time thinking carefully about what your personal preference even looks like, and why you prefer it. Knowing yourself, and knowing what’s worked (and hasn’t worked) for you in the past, is ultimately the first step in learning how to choose a language teacher. Asking the right questions comes second.

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