Spanish Tutor Portland Oregon
Learning Spanish is really difficult. I know from personal experience. I remember trying to learn Spanish in high school. I actually went to Cleveland High School right here in Portland, Oregon. The Spanish program was pretty good. But, still, I struggled to learn the language with any reasonable degree of proficiency. I think this was because I was limited by the classroom setting, the infrequency of class, and not having an in-home tutor to help me. Much of it also boils down to my own lack of resourcefulness at the time. Though, it’s really normal for high school students to lack a strong sense of resourcefulness.
I had trouble learning the Spanish accent, as many students do. The problem is that, in a classroom or real-world setting, learning the accent is very important. If you are traveling, or actively speaking Spanish, the only way that other people are going to understand you is if you have learned to speak with their accent. Learning the accent is important in the classroom setting for several reasons. First, it’s important for your grade. Either subconsciously or consciously, a high school teacher will certainly grade you lower if your accent is poor or not authentic. Secondly, other students will tease you and laugh if you have a very American sounding accent. Peer approval and acceptance is very important during these years. That can add to the pressure of learning Spanish. And also encourage students not to try, or to joke around, as a form of ego-protection.
One great solution for this is to hire an in-home Spanish tutor. A Spanish tutor can help make you more conversational. They can improve your accent. They can work with you on grammar and pronunciation. All of these skills work to boost a student’s confidence level. At Tutor Portland, we believe confidence is one of the key skills needed to truly master a foreign language like Spanish. When students gain confidence, they are more likely to engage in dialogue and attempt speaking more challenging sentences. This improves their ability to speak and understand Spanish.
How I learned Spanish:
I learned Spanish through a study abroad course and also with the help of some Spanish tutoring. I studied Spanish in Chile. I remember arriving there — meeting my host family — and knowing almost zero Spanish. I couldn’t even say “please” and “thank you.” But slowly, I began to learn. I noticed my host parents would say certain phrases over and over. “Desayuno” always in the morning before breakfast. “Como dormiste?” Always first thing in the morning, to ask how I slept. All of these words, sentences, and phrases began collecting in my mind. I was building my Spanish vocabulary — my Spanish skill — one step at a time. Chunk by chunk. Brick by brick. I was improving. It helped that I was immersed into Spanish. I had to learn it. It was all around me. In order to communicate with people, I had to know this stuff. And it was my mini-mission my current purpose in life: to learn Spanish!
Another way that I learned Spanish was by having a tutor. While in Santiago, Chile, I worked with a tutor. He would help me with my homework and help edit some of my essays. It was really helpful to have him help with my essays because he helped me to learn from my errors and make improvement in how I wrote. In the past, I had fallen in the trap of using a translator to help me edit the essay. Or I would rely extensively on a translator to write certain sentences or paragraphs. Many students do this. But I realized that this was robbing me of my ability to learn, retain, and synthesize information. In Chile, my tutor went over every word in my essay. He helped me to understand the underpinnings of the language. I learned about grammar & sentence structure. My essays were soon receiving excellent marks. My Spanish tutor also helped me improve my pronunciation. This instilled within me a great sense of confidence. I started engaging others in conversation, in Spanish, all day long. I would like to strangers on the street and have full-length conversations with them.
There was now a flow to my Spanish. I was able to understand others and it became a lot of fun for me. In the past, I had hated Spanish. I never liked going to Spanish class because I wasn’t good at it and because people poked fun at my American-sounding accent. Of course I didn’t like the subject nor perform well in the class! But when the environment and the situation changed, I changed too.
How anyone can learn Spanish:
This sort of shift can happen for anyone. It can happen with any subject. But we must have the right set-up, the right situation, for this to be possible. I believe the most critical element is that the student knows she is within a growth-minded atmosphere. A student needs to know that she is safe to learn, and that her goal is to attain subject mastery (not just get an A). Secondly, a student needs a safe place to practice the language on a regular basis. It is critical that not more than 2 days elapse before each class or tutoring session because learning a language requires consistency.
One key point that is so important to learning Spanish: purpose. Students need to feel as though what they are learning matters. You see, back when I was in Portland studying Spanish at Cleveland HS or Portland State University learning Spanish never seemed that critical to me. It was just a box I had to check. There was no purpose behind it. So I drifted in those classes. I didn’t seize the day and go after it with everything that I had.
Every student is capable of earning great grades. It is simply a matter of attitude and perspective. If a student is on fire with passion and drive, if they feel as though they must learn Spanish.. then they will succeed. This is drive and desire can be coaxed out by a great tutor.
Common mistakes student make when studying Spanish:
I’ve notice several strategy errors that students make when they go about trying to learn Spanish. The first is an over-reliance on tech tools and apps such as DuoLingo. Many students fall into this trap. The problem is in relying solely on tools like these. They simply aren’t enough. Doing five to fifteen minutes per day on duolingo is good, but it will only get you so far. It will not help you master the language. Nor will it give you the confidence or the encouragement that a tutor or teacher can provide. At Tutor Portland, we believe tools such as duolingo are a good addition to a learning program, but they should never been the main focus. They are too limited in their scope.
Can I learn Spanish without enrolling in a Spanish course?
Yes, it’s possible for students to excel in Spanish even without a course. I’ve seen this happen! But normally this only happens when the student is following some sort of designed program and also has consistent direct contact with an instructor or someone well-versed in the Spanish language. This is where a tutor comes in. It’s possible for a tutor to design a Spanish curriculum for you. The curriculum should cover all the building blocks and basics of the language, so that you have a strong foundation. After that, we think it’s best to start weaving in vocabulary and examples from areas which you are interested in. For example, if you like sports, or work in medicine, we would want to develop a program based around those, and build out from there. We call this our building out strategy. It is best employed while also using a textbook to study the basic vocabulary that you need to start building. From here, we think it is important for any learner of Spanish to be engaging in conversation regularly.
In addition to conversation, it is important to write. Many students who try to learn Spanish on their own fail because they don’t have a system and accountability for essays and conversations. And, perhaps most importantly, they lack feedback. The proper feedback from a tutor will improve your writing and speaking abilities.
Tutor Portland’s Purpose:
Our purpose is to help develop learners and progress them towards their goals. We believe that there are so many important subjects. Math & science are increasingly important. Reading & writing skills are so fundamental to business and personal success. Many people overlook the power of reading & writing. And then there are foreign languages. People often overlook these as well. But learning a second language has many benefits. It has been shown to boost life-long earnings. It can help your career develop or help you land a good job.
Our purpose is to help students learn these difficult subjects because we believe so deeply in their importance. We know from experience that it’s possible to learn anything. You just need the right approach. (Leave that to us!!!!) We have been here time and time again, helping students progress through difficult courses and subjects. We like doing this! This is our speciality.
We are good at finding and developing talented Spanish tutors. We look for several things when hiring a Spanish tutor.
- How well do they know Spanish?
- Are they passionate about both Spanish and learning?
- How outgoing and conversational are they?
- What is the experience & skill with editing essays?
- Why do they want to teach Spanish?
We think that these questions are so critical to understanding who might be a good Spanish tutor or teacher.