Although this is not really for me, there are many websites where you can get online teachers, ad hoc or pre-booked with them, and learn via Skype or other video software. A couple sites which I have previously bookmarked that provide this service include ChineseTeachers, TutorChinese and eChineseLearning- and there are a lot more.
I believe this type of site is quite popular, and maybe depending on your lifestyle or location this would be the only reasonable option. But I like the human contact of sitting opposite someone in a coffee shop, drinking a hot latte, and sharing Chinese. I like watching them write on paper rather than type on a screen, and I like their being able to underline words, use arrows to show where my verb should have gone, and cross things out.
So I choose live teaching for myself. For others I recommend whatever words best for *you*.
choosing a Real! Live! teacher
I started off searching the web for Chinese teachers in my area. Especially in Hong Kong, a number of nearby language-specialist schools appear in the results, but I focus on those offering lessons as individuals. This choice was discussed in a previous post - I don't want to be constrained by attending pre-planned lessons or even have to wait my turn to ask a question in small group. And although these school do offer 1-to-1 lessons, they are materially more expensive than 1-to-1 lessons with private teachers.
Then I corresponded with each of the potential teachers I found, asking about costs, and possible times (weekdays/weekends, mornings/afternoons/evenings, and flexibility - because of my travel schedule). Additionally, I filtered out teachers for other reasons:
- There were some teachers who were insisting that they'd take me chapter-by-chapter through a text book - but that would have bored me to death so I rejected them.
- There were others who insisted on a minimum number of hours a week - I rejected them too, because I'm in charge of my time, not them.
- For my most recent choice, I loved the fact that in addition to knowing English, Mandarin & Cantonese - she is currently learning French & Spanish herself, so truly understands the challenges of language learning.
- their inability to speak at a speed that I was happy with
- the fact that their pronunciation wasn't always 'standard' enough (one claimed to speak Putonghua but I struggled to get even half of her simple sentences)
- the quality of their explanations when I asked questions.
As always, these thoughts reflect what works for me. Make sure you focus on what works for you - and follow that through. Good luck!
I would love to hear from you how you chose a teacher, or chose not to have a teacher. What things does a teacher do that bothers you? What do you really appreciate? And if you're a fan of online teaching, let us know how it works for you.