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Master Apprentice Language Learning:
How to Choose a Mentor

Have fun with your mentor

Using the master apprentice approach, you look for native speakers that will act as your mentor to help you learn their language.

Where should you look for mentors? Start by choosing housing, professional, and recreational activities that put you in company of language speakers. If you can, live with a family or in a boarding house rather than in an apartment or hotel.

If you are working abroad, take breaks with local co-workers rather than native English speakers. Join a local club you have an interest in, such as climbing, theater, dancing, charitable activities (think international organizations, like Rotary), etc. As you develop friendships, explain your language goals and ask friends to suggest mentors. Explain the master apprentice approach.

The internet expands your opportunities to connect with mentors around the world. I recently stumbled on a website for a company that helps people in developing nations use their language skills to teach people around the world. Glovico is a fair trade non-profit organization. They can help you connect with a mentor from one of a dozen countries. You can meet a mentor without even leaving home.

When looking for a mentor, keep in mind:

  • You and your mentors should be personally compatible. More than likely, your mentors will become valued friends. Look for qualities you want in a friend.

    Caution: In many countries, custom prohibits unrelated males and females from being alone. If this is the case in your target country, choose mentors of the same gender. Even in countries where this is not taboo, exercise care in selecting a mentor of the opposite gender. Focus on language learning with your mentor (not the language of love).

  • A mentor need not be a professional language teacher. While traditional language teachers may be more helpful with grammar and vocabulary, a non-traditional mentor may be more flexible about helping with your immediate language learning needs.

  • A good mentor must be patient, willing to slow down and help you with numerous repetitions, especially in correcting errors – without laughing at least not too much.

  • Your mentors must be able to commit time to help you learn, so think about people who might have time available: a retired person, a student, an unemployed person.

  • Consider how and whether to compensate your mentor. Find out from close friends what would be culturally appropriate.

To learn more about how to choose and use the skills of a mentor, download the Walkabout Language Learning Action Guide. In addition to tips about finding a mentor, you'll learn about "instant mentors" and how to use people you encounter for personalized mini lessons. You'll also learn drilling techniques so that your mentor most effectively help you. Click here to download it now.

Tandem Language Learning: A Unique Type of Mentor

Tandem language learning is a special type of mentor situation in which you agree with another person to do a language exchange. You teach them your language, and they teach you theirs. It can be effective, as long as you follow this tip.

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New! Comments

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Practically Super Woman

A good mentor isn't merely a translator; at times she rejects the suggestions of the learner, offers alternatives, pushes the learner in different directions.

She is forceful enough to disagree, to point out errors; skilled enough to dream up alternatives; clever enough to keep lessons moving, varied, interesting; observant enough to know when to repeat, when to press, when to step back.

--Dr. Terry Marshall

The Whole World Guide

Love the ideas and language learning tips here in our website? Want to learn more about the Walkabout method? Buy your own copy of The Whole World Guide to Language Learning: How to live and learn any foreign language.

This book is chock full of ideas on how to use Walkabout language learning. It has sample lesson plans as well as language learning drills and practice tips. Order your copy today.

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