Master Apprentice Language Learning:
How to Choose a Mentor
Using the master apprentice approach, you look for native speakers that will act as your mentor to help you learn
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
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 you...at least not too
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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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