How to Become a Language Tutor

10 minutes • 15 July 2021

Students learning another language often find that whole new worlds of insight and opportunity are now open to them. Speaking two or more languages fluently has long been the hallmark of a cultured, sophisticated and intelligent individual. Beyond those benefits, fluency in another language opens doors to working in other countries, makes travelling in those countries easier and more enjoyable, and broadens an appreciation of other people and cultures.

Piece of wood with phrases written in several different languages

Language tutors help their students become fluent in a second language. Private instruction may be desirable for younger students who need extra help with school classes, or for professionals who want to expand their career horizons. In some cases, professionals working in major corporations may need to learn a new language to accept a new assignment or promotion to an office located in another country. Communication is the key to successful commerce. Being able to speak multiple languages makes professionals more valuable to their companies because they are able to connect with more people throughout the world.

Then, there’s the pure enjoyment of being able to converse in different languages. Scientific studies have shown conclusively that people who speak more than one language have greater cognitive abilities, which is just an elaborate way of saying they are more intelligent.

The US Foreign Service Institute divides languages into four groups of learning difficulty for people whose native language is English:

  • Group 1: French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili
  • Group 2: Bulgarian, Burmese, Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu
  • Group 3: Amharic, Cambodian, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Lao, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
  • Group 4: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean

For Group 1, the FSI estimates that it takes 480 hours of study and practice to achieve basic fluency in speaking these languages. That’s good news for language tutors because it means that students who are serious about learning a new language would need more than 3 months of intensive instruction and practice, at least 5 hours a day, to achieve basic fluency.

Point being, if you can recruit dedicated students you are likely to have steady business for a predictable amount of time.

Ready to put your language skills to lucrative use? Read on to discover what’s involved in becoming a language tutor.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a language tutor
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for language tutors
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips

How much money can you make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, language teachers at the middle school level earn a median salary of $58,600 annually and can expect job growth of 3% through 2028. High school teachers earn an average of $60,320 per year. Job growth for high school instructors is projected at 4% through 2028.

Private language tutors typically charge between $30 and $40 per hour, although fees can be twice as much depending on the tutor’s experience and the language being taught.

As a private tutor your income is limited only by your ability to market your services successfully, as well as the number of hours you wish to work each week.

Language tutor writing out an English phrase in another language on a chalkboard

Training and Certification

The requirements for foreign language teachers vary throughout the United States, so you should check certification requirements in your state before committing to a training program. Private and public schools will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as a state teaching license as basic conditions of employment.

Expert fluency in the language is an obviously essential requirement.

Classes and certification tests will vary based on whether a prospective teacher wants to become certified to teach K-8, secondary (high school), or all K-12 grade levels. Some states and school districts offer more opportunities for foreign language education in middle schools than others.

While education and state teacher certification are requirements for foreign language tutors, they should also have certain personality traits. Patience, creativity, and the ability to use the latest technology will foster a productive learning environment for students studying foreign languages.

If you choose the career path of a private tutor, there are several organizations that offer certification and training, which will enhance your marketability when you go looking for students.

The National Tutoring Association, Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession, the American Tutoring Association and the College Reading and Learning Association all endorse formal certifications that establish a tutor’s credibility. Along with experience, certification can also lead to a greater salary.

Professional Groups to Join

Affiliating with a professional group shows potential employers that you are serious about work as a language tutor. You can also list these memberships on your website and marketing materials, further enhancing your desirability as an instructor. Professional memberships also look great on a resume when you’re job hunting. Benefits range from networking with other pros in your field to ongoing education and training, news about the profession and the sense of comradery that comes with belonging to a group whose members share your passion.

Decorative sign which reads "Hola"

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
This council draws its membership from educators at all grade levels as well as educators in business and industry. The association aims to improve and expand the learning of foreign languages in the US and provides member benefits that include free subscriptions to language publications, career search resources, and professional development.

American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages
This national association is the largest in the world dedicated to the improvement and expansion of the teaching and learning of all languages at all levels of instruction. 

American Association of Teachers of French
The association promotes the study and teaching of French at all educational levels. 

American Association of Teachers of German (AATG)
The only national individual membership organization dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the German language.

Association of the Teachers of Japanese (ATJ)
An international, nonprofit organization of scholars, teachers, and students of Japanese language. The association is dedicated to teaching and scholarship and to the exchange of information among teachers and other professionals.

Midwest Modern Languages Association
This non-profit organization of teachers and scholars of literature, language, and culture is a regional affiliate of the Modern Language Association. Members teach English, French, German, Italian, Linguistics, and Spanish, among other subjects. 

Employment

There are many companies that offer language tutoring throughout the United States. Some have a national presence while others may be independent and locally owned.

Person holding a Spanish notebook in front of cacti

You’ll want to prepare your resume, both printed copies and a digital version for online distribution. Sending job application materials via email or through the recruitment page of a company’s website is a fast and efficient way to reach many potential employers, compared to visiting the Post Office with a stack of thick, manila envelopes containing your printed information. When sending resumes and other documents by email, the best way to attach these materials is by creating .pdf files of the documents with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Follow this tip and you’ll have a much better chance that your online correspondence lands in front of a real person, not a spam folder.

Also make photocopies of your professional certifications and memberships in music teacher organizations. These extra materials can pull your application to the top of the pile and set you apart from competitors for the same job.

Finding Clients

Business cards and a basic website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as a professional language tutor. The website should be attractively designed, with photos of your office and a few images of you teaching students. You’ll need the student’s (or parent’s) permission to use a photo if the student is visibly recognizable. Your business location and contact information should be at the top of every page on your website. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a language tutor, either for themselves or their children.

In addition to your website, the next thing to do is create an Instagram account to showcase your business. Instagram is the top online venue for professionals to promote their work. It’s a free marketing tool that’s always working on your behalf.

Overhead image of a desk with coffee, notepad and a German for Dummies book

Now set up a Facebook page for your services. This is a great way to build a following and keep people up-to-date on your offerings.

Be sure to create a Google My Business page, where you can add hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location. This helps people in your geographic area find you.

All of these services are free. Setting up a page on each site takes less than an hour.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Create a referral program with discounts for people who send new students to you.
  • Ask students to review your services online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.

Good to know

Experienced language tutors share their top tips for success:

Create a personalized learning environment
Everyone learns at a different pace. Adjust your curriculum to the student, not the other way around.

Offer encouragement
Learning a new language is hard. Frustrating at times. Remind your students of the many benefits that come from mastery of another language, including expanded career opportunities working abroad, appreciating other cultures and broadening their own knowledge. Praise students when they’re doing well. Encourage them to keep trying when their efforts fall short.

A sign with an English phrase translated in several different languages

Be enthusiastic
Passion for a subject can be contagious. If you are excited, this means your students are much more likely to share your enthusiasm.

Relate to your students
This means showing you care sincerely about them and their success. Students try harder when they have a bond with an instructor whom they want to impress.

Teach, yes, but be sure your students mirror back what is taught
You want active participants in your tutoring sessions. Anyone can listen quietly while an instructor regales them in a foreign language. Only when the student speaks back can you gauge how well the lessons are being learned. For those who may be shy, ask direct questions to draw them out. The questions should not be answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but should require deliberative thought in the response. For example, ask a passive or disinterested student, “How can we make this more fun for you?”

Monitor the advancement of every student
This seems obvious, but it’s still important. If students are progressing faster than the coverage in your lesson plans, consider moving faster or skipping forward. Conversely, slow down for students who need more time to master the concepts being taught.

Set standards and milestones for students to meet
Clear goals help students focus and put in the effort necessary to reach them. Remember: anyone can reach a destination if they don’t know where they’re going. Reaching the desired destination involves a plan and a roadmap.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a language tutor. Here’s a great place to start.PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.

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